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Can We Bring Bluefin Tuna Back From The Brink?

Can We Bring Bluefin Tuna Back From The Brink?Bluefin tuna are one of the most prized catches in the world’s oceans, with some markets, especially in Asia, selling them for as much as $20,000 a fish.  For sushi lovers, the bluefin is the equivalent of a purebred Angus filet mignon, and it’s a mainstay of thousands of restaurants, including the internationally recognized chain Nobu.  The Japanese have long treasured bluefin, and they consume 80% of the world’s catch to this day.

As the popularity of sushi has risen in the past decade, so has the insatiable demand for bluefin tuna.  And because this large predatory fish travels as much as 17,000 miles to hunt food and spawn, many countries have active bluefin fishing fleets.  This, of course, makes it almost impossible to regulate the catch as each country elbows for higher quotas.

The consequence is that the bluefin is facing extinction as early as 2012.  However, this story is not all bad.  The member countries of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) plan to meet about the bluefin next March about saving bluefin tuna.  If two thirds of the 175 countries that are part of CITES vote in favor, all bluefin harvesting will come to a screeching halt.  Already several countries have voiced their support for adding the bluefin to the list of globally endangered species.

More exciting, however, is the work of a long-time fisherman in Australia.  Hagen Stehr became a millionaire harvesting bluefins in the vast Pacific to Australia’s east.  Now he is trying to save the species by breeding them in captivity, and he’s put up $48 million to make it happen.  Earlier this year his company, Clean Seas, successfully fertilized bluefin tuna eggs.  Now the fish have grown into fingerlings and are feeding in a huge indoor tank in southern Australia.

Many thought it wasn’t possible to breed the bluefin in captivity, especially since their predatory nature means they tend to eat their own young.  But Clean Seas has found a way, and they hope to be putting 250,000 bluefin fingerlings in the ocean by 2015.

The prospect of a sustainable bluefin tuna catch is good news for environmentalists and businesses alike.  If Clean Seas has its way, restaurants can serve delicious bluefin across the world, guilt-free.

Bluefin fingerlings feeding in a tank at Clean Seas, Port Lincoln, Australia.

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One Response to Can We Bring Bluefin Tuna Back From The Brink?

  1. Harold (SellMoreMeals) August 22, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    Wow. That is great news. I really hope it’s a huge success. I’d hate to see these wonderful fish eaten into extinction. Another thing that really encourages me is that it isn’t a governmental org trying to find a solution but a business man.

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