Three tuna species are threatened and two others are likely to be, if measures are not taken to protect them. Overfishing is the main reason, due to their high commercial value. Tuna species are one of the most popular fish for human consumption globally. Will they be eaten into non-existence? Three species of bluefin tuna–southern, Atlantic and Pacific–are all in danger of collapse due to human activities. The two species not yet threatened, but close to it, are yellowfin and albacore. All three bluefin tuna species are susceptible to collapse under continued excessive fishing pressure.
“The southern bluefin has already essentially crashed, with little hope of recovery,” said marine conservationist Dr. Kent Carpenter. (Source: IUCN.org) Just this year a single bluefin tuna sold for nearly $400,000 in Japan. Bluefin tuna were denied status as an endangered species by the National Marine Fisheries Service in June. An online pledge to boycott bluefin tuna has been published by the Center for Biological Diversity. If all the tuna are eaten, what fish will be next up on the overconsumption menu?
One major issue with overfishing long-lived fishes such as tuna is that they require more time to reproduce, so recovery from depletion of their populations is harder. Simply making changes to regulations is not the only answer either, as some fishing boats will continue taking fish illegally unless there is consistent enforcement. It seems one of the best strategies, if it will be undertaken, is for consumers to inform themselves about the impact of their own behavior and choose alternatives to tuna. It would better for the tuna for people to stop eating it and use something else such as a fish like tilapia that is not in danger of collapsing. There is actually a vegan meat alternative product called Tuna (Not) which contains no real tuna, and uses soy flour as a protein source. The best choice for the environment is a vegetarian diet.
Will tuna be fished into extinction? It is up to us to stop it by changing our behavior, and on an individual level this is a very easy thing to do. Collectively it is harder, but it can be done.
Image Credit: Osaka Museum