News / USA

So Long Sushi, US Sides With Bluefin Tuna

Fate of endangered fish considered this week at global convention

The Atlantic bluefin tuna population has declined by 80 percent since 1970. The prized-fish is the gold standard of high-end sushi.
The Atlantic bluefin tuna population has declined by 80 percent since 1970. The prized-fish is the gold standard of high-end sushi.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

In the 1970s, Carl Safina fished off the U.S. Atlantic coast for bluefin tuna, a majestic warm-blooded predator that travels at highway speeds and can weigh as much as 650 kilograms.

"I've seen acres and acres of bluefin tuna at the surface, exploding through the surface and chasing prey fish." Safina says it wasn't a question of whether the fishermen would catch one. "When the fishing was good, we just assumed we would be going out and catching tuna."

Diminishing species

Over the last 40 years, though, the global adult bluefin tuna population has declined by more than 80 percent. The trend has been driven by industrial overfishing, coupled with surging demand, largely from Japan, which consumes 80 percent of the world's supply. The prized bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.

In 1969, the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas was charged with setting quotas and managing healthy tuna populations. They've failed in that mission, says Safina, now president of the conservation group, Blue Ocean Institute.

When Carl Safina fished commercially off the U.S. Atlantic coast in the 1970s, blue fin tuna were abundant.
When Carl Safina fished commercially off the U.S. Atlantic coast in the 1970s, blue fin tuna were abundant.

"In the last ten years, with the fish on the western side of the Atlantic pretty much demolished, a lot of the focus of the fishing has intensified on the eastern side of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and that population is now falling apart," says Safina. "And the Tuna Commission has demonstrated on an annual basis its complete inability to control the fishing."

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES is a global treaty that protects 30,000 species of animals and plants. The CITES Conference in Doha, Qatar March 13-25 will consider the proposed commercial trade ban on bluefin tuna.

Game changer

The Obama administration recently announced support for the measure.

Susan Lieberman, director of International Policy at the Pew Environment Group, applauds the decision which she says could be a game changer for the species.

The bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.
The bluefin tuna is usually served as sashimi or sushi.

She expects the 27-member European Community to vote as a bloc in support of the ban. As the world's leading consumer, Japan opposes the measure, and could take a reservation or opt out of the treaty in order to continue fishing. However, since Japan depends largely on tuna imports, Lieberman says the focus will be on ensuring other countries don't opt out as well in order to supply the Japanese market.

"If Japan, unfortunately, takes a reservation they still have to have a country they can import from because they can only then import from another CITES country that has a reservation. The U.S. will not take one. The EU will not take one. And we believe that the EU will exert sufficient pressure on the North African countries to do the same."

It is estimated that millions of sharks are killed each year solely for their fins.
It is estimated that millions of sharks are killed each year solely for their fins.

Rebound

The Blue Ocean Institute's Safina says he expects the species to eventually recover should a commercial bluefin fishery ban go into effect. "You would see something right away and then probably that growth will begin to increase at an accelerated rate, and in a decade you would see very substantial recoveries," says Safina.    

The ban would not affect the popular albacore or yellowfin tuna that end up in cans.

In addition to the bluefin tuna ban, delegates at the Doha meeting will consider proposals to put trade controls on eight threatened species of shark and red and pink corals.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid