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The Pacific Bluefin Tuna Is Going, Going…


The Pacific Bluefin Tuna Is Going, Going…

It wasn’t an easy number to find. Earlier this week the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean—seriously, that’s the name—released the latest assessment (PDF) of the Pacific bluefin tuna population. The bluefin tuna is the tiger of the sea—in more ways than one. It’s a top of the food chain predator that can grow to over 1,000 lbs. and swim at speeds above 50 mph. In captivity—you can see them at the great Monterey Bay Aquarium in northern California—they shimmer like sports cars. Unfortunately for the tuna, they also happen to be delicious—the flesh of the bluefin tuna is prized by sushi chefs in the high-end restaurants of Japan. Just last week, a 489-lb. bluefin was sold at a fish auction in Tokyo for a record $1.76 million—or about $3,600 per pound.

So it’s not surprising that the Pacific bluefin tuna—as well as its cousins in the Atlantic—are the subject of single-minded hunts by fishermen wherever they are found. But it’s always been difficult to determine just how rapidly the bluefin is being fished out—in part, possibly, because countries like Japan that do most of the fishing and most of the consumption of bluefin don’t really want those numbers made public. It’s a strategy that should be familiar from a lot of environmental policy battles.

But back to that scientific report. Buried deep in the highly technical language of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna Stock Assessment is a number: 0.036. That’s the depletion ratio for one of the computer simulation runs done that tries to model the effect of fishing on the bluefin tuna population. By itself, 0.036 doesn’t seem to mean much—unless you do some more math. In the simulations, the number 1 represents the estimated population of the bluefin tuna before we started fishing. 0.036 is what’s left now. Convert that to a percentage, and you get 96.4%. Which means that by the best guesses of scientists, the Pacific bluefin tuna population has declined by 96.4% since we began fishing it decades ago. 96.4%. No wonder that bluefin sold in Tokyo was so valuable. There may not be many fish left in the sea.



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  1. fliteking

    January 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    We do not know the status of the Mighty Blue Fin but liberals will gladly spend millions to train chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly.

    This world is shot.

  2. Lgbpop

    January 12, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Seems pretty presumptuous of some self-styled experts to decide based on a mathematical progression the number of tuna left in the Pacific. Would be more accurate to count them, but that’s not practical. However, those static models don’t take into account the normal reaction by nature to increased depredation of any species, which is to increase breeding, or that the tuna have migrated to different waters to avoid capture, or that the scientists’ models are flawed from the start.

  3. CheeseandRice

    January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I have a cure to the tuna depletion. Let’s start harvesting dolphin! You know? The mammal “chicken of the sea”? Dolphin is so much better than tuna and very few countries have been fishing for them since the late 70’s. I ate my first dolphin in 1977 and it was better than any beef steak I have ever put a tooth into. I am almost sure if we started eating more dolphin and less tuna, the tuna would re-plenish themselves over time. Maybe an international law could be put into place that no can of dolphin can contain any tuna. Actually, in my estimation, the dolphin is the “rib-eye of the sea”. Lets get fishing!

    • Bavet

      January 13, 2013 at 3:17 am

      mmm sounds delish!

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