“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, No Fish”

Jennifer Church

This Monday, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the international body that sets annual tuna fishing limits, announced a reduction in the fishing quota of the Bluefin Tuna.  However, most scientists agree that the reduction does not go far enough to save bluefin tuna from near extinction. The EU, US and Japan have decided to limit the 2010 catch quotas to 13,500 tons.  Catches were lowered from 28,500 tons to 22,000 this year. Scientists say that is still 7,000 tons over what they would advise.

A single bluefin tuna can sell for $100,000 and is traditionally used for sashimi.  Overall, it’s a billion dollar global business that is driven by an appetite for tuna, especially in Japan.  The bluefin population is less than a fifth of what it was in the 1970s, making it one of the most threatened fish in the sea.  Illegal overharvesting is the main cause of the bluefin’s sharp population decline.  Many scientists urged the ICCAT to accept nothing less than a fishing quota of zero, however the commission has never reduced the allowable catch by as much as scientists recommended (See the blog post written last year regarding this very issue.)  Now many fear the species is inevitably headed toward extinction.

Susan Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group said of the decision: “I would say it’s not really so much a turning point, as a baby step in the right direction. I don’t know if the bluefin tuna has enough time for all the little, tiny steps — but it’s better than nothing.”  A recent New York Times article advocated for the US to join Monaco in putting bluefin tuna on an international list of endangered species because “[s]uch a listing would allow fishermen to sell bluefin domestically but would make the high-volume international trade illegal, finally giving tuna a chance to recover.”  Currently, any action the US may take is unclear.

It seems to me that overharvesting of fish species falls into the category of “out of sight, out of mind” for most people.  Except in this case, we didn’t even need to expend the effort to build walls around it to conceal the atrocities, as with CAFO’s.  Most people have little to no everyday contact with marine organisms, so the sharp decline goes unnoticed by all except marine scientists. The problem is not too little media attention to the issue, it’s that many think of the oceans as our own personal garbage dump and would rather not think about what goes on there.   As long as the fish keep ending up on dinner plates across the globe for an affordable price, there can’t be too big of a problem, can there?

2 Responses

  1. […] and the IGO in charge cut the bluefin tuna quota to…13,500 tons, right?  Well, they did.  Adding insult to injury, this is the ‘International Commission For The Conservation Of […]

  2. […] be regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or Iccat.  Iccat has consistently failed to set quotas anywhere near what its own scientists say is necessary t… but, even if it did, the Commission would have absolutely no enforcement authority […]

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