Monday, October 20, 2008

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna can grow up to 3/4 of a tonne, and can swim at speeds reaching 50 km/h. However, they aren't beyond our reach. Bluefin fishermen use every resource available, including huge engines, spotter planes, and harpoons. Their migration routes are so predictable that fishermen know just where to catch them. In the Western Atlantic, since the mid 1970's, the bluefin population has declined by more than 85%. Scientists are calling for a total ban on fishing for bluefin, but many fishermen refuse to accept the fact that the populations are in danger at all.

Until fishermen realized that they could airlift these fish to Japan, bluefins were only worth a few cents a pound. Now, a single fish can sell for upwards of $25,000, occasionally going for more than $200,000 when the market fluctuates. The Japanese are by far the biggest importers of bluefin tuna in the world.

Japan is already a leader in aquaculture, and now they're even trying to raise bluefin tuna in captivity. Most farmed tuna are caught in the wild, then fattened up in ocean pens. Unfortunately, they are very sensitive to changes in water temperature and sunlight, and they need to be fed huge amounts of small fish, which would otherwise be a valuable protein source for the poorer people in Asia.

For now, tuna farming is only marginally better than catching them in the wild, environmentally speaking. However, methods are always improving, and hopefully technological and ecological capabilities will be developed to the point that it is truly sustainable.

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