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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid