Blue Fin Tuna Decline and Fall
EU agrees quota cuts to save bluefin tuna
November 27, 2007 08:31 AM
The Atlantic blue fin tuna is one of the largest, fastest, and most gorgeously colored of all the world’s fishes. Their torpedo shaped, streamlined bodies are built for speed and endurance. Their coloring (metallic blue on top and silver white on the bottom) helps camouflage them from above and below. They have an average size of 6.5 feet and 550 pounds. Unfortunately for them they are also delicious and may be on the brink of extinction due to overfishing. European Union ambassadors agreed to propose protecting blue fin tuna as an endangered species on March 10, a move that would effectively ban international trade in the species.
Blue fin tuna have been eaten by humans for centuries. However, in the 1970s, demand and prices for large blue fins soared worldwide, particularly in Japan, and commercial fishing operations found new ways to find and catch these tuna. As a result, blue fin stocks, especially of large, breeding age fish, have plummeted, and international conservation efforts and concerns have increased.
This tuna is one of the most highly prized fish used in Japanese raw fish dishes. Blue fin tuna sashimi is a particular delicacy in Japan where at one auction, a single giant tuna sold for more than $100,000 on the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. In January 2009, a 440 pounds (200 kg) blue fin sold for $173,000. The very highest prices in the Japanese market have tended to be from Pacific blue fin tuna caught in Japanese waters, but high grade Atlantic blue fin, particularly those from Canada and Boston, also fetch high prices.
Prices were highest in the late 1970s and 1980s. The entry of many North African Mediterranean countries, such as Tunisia and Libya, into the blue fin tuna market in the 1990s, along with the increasingly widespread practice of tuna farming in the Mediterranean and other areas such as southern Australia has brought down prices.
Atlantic blue fin populations probably remained stable until the 1960s. Prior to that period, blue fin fisheries were relatively small in scale. The decline became precipitous after the 1970's.
The EU agreement came ahead of a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that will take place from March 13 to March 25 to consider a number of species, including blue fin tuna, elephants and polar bears.
The ambassadors attached a number of conditions to the EU's support, including a one year delay to the ban on fishing that normally follows an endangered listing, and an opt out for fishermen using small boats to supply local markets.
Governments also promised to consider paying financial compensation to EU fishermen affected by a possible ban on catching the fish which is used mainly in sushi - a concession designed to win the support of countries with domestic tuna fisheries.
Malta voted against the proposed ban while Sweden and Austria abstained, EU sources said.
Environmental groups said the EU had not done enough to reduce over sized blue fin tuna fishing fleets, and had even subsidized expansion.
"Over eight years the EU blue fin tuna fishing industry received subsidies totaling 34.5 million euros. Of this, 33.5 million euros was for the construction and modernization of vessels, with only a tiny proportion for decommissioning," said Markus Knigge of the Pew Environment Group.
Opposition grew shorty after the proposed trade ban with several Arab countries joining Japan in arguing it would hurt poor fishing nations and was not supported by sound science.
Supporters of the ban, including the European Union and the United States, say it is necessary because the Atlantic blue fin is a migratory species that swims from the western Atlantic to the Mediterranean — putting it beyond any one country's border. Compounding the tuna's plight is the growing threat from illegal fishing fleets and the failure of existing measures to keep the population sustainable.
For further information: http://www.euractiv.com/en/sustainab...an-news-329139