60-Second Earth

Bye-Bye Bluefin Tuna

By failing to curb trade in the endangered ocean giant, the international community may have doomed it to extinction. David Biello reports

Tuna steak. Tuna tartare. Toro, as the Japanese call it, or the fatty underbelly of the bluefin tuna served as sushi —a delicacy that became more common with the advent of cheap refrigeration in the 1960s. These are just some of the ways that humans consume one of the few warm-blooded fish.  

Unfortunately that love for bluefin tuna has led to overfishing , despite the fish's ability to swim as fast as 80 kilometers per hour. The Atlantic population of the giant fish that grows to an average of more than 360 kilograms has fallen by 90 percent. And the estimated global population is less than half what it was in 1970.  

As a result, the U.S. and other countries proposed a ban on bluefin tuna trade to allow the pack-hunting ocean predator to recover. But the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species rejected protecting the bluefin tuna via a secret ballot vote at its most recent meeting. After all, the fish is beloved cuisine in Japan, fetching as much as $175,000 for one fish.  

Nor is the bluefin alone. Its cousin, yellowfin tuna, has begun to shrink—the first sign of a population crashing due to overfishing. Tuna may be off the menu soon, one way or the other.

—David Biello

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