Depleted Bluefin Tuna Sold for $1.8 Million – A Sad and Sick Story

A couple weeks ago, a moderate-sized (500 lb) bluefin tuna sold for an unimaginable price of nearly $1.8 million US dollars – a new record – at a Tokyo fish auction. The buyer is the owner of several sushi restaurants in Japan. He also set the old record for the highest paid price for bluefin tuna ($740,000) at last year’s auction. This time he paid almost triple that amount.  Supposedly, the high prices paid at the annual New Year’s tuna auctions in Tokyo are a way to “celebrate” (more likely it is about publicity), and do not reflect actual market price. Nonetheless, the continued increasing price buyers are paying for bluefin tuna mirrors its increasing rarity.

Just three days after the Tokyo fish auction, scientists released the most recent population update for the Pacific bluefin tuna population, from which the record paid for fish came. The scientific data shows that the current population is just a measly 4% of its historical abundance level, thanks to decades of overfishing and poor management. And to make matters worse, fishermen are mostly catching young bluefin tuna that have not yet had the chance to reproduce. In other oceans, fisheries have similarly depleted bluefin tuna populations to very low abundance levels.

Conservationists have called for fishermen around the globe to stop catching bluefin tuna –a majestic, one-of-a-kind fish, capable of growing to the size of a small car. And as a top predator they play an important role in our ocean ecosystems. But given the ridiculously high prices that bluefin tuna can fetch, it seems unlikely that fishermen are going to stop catching them. In Carl Safina’s latest blog, he says, “Catching bluefin tuna is no longer simply a fishery. It’s an insanity, an obscenity, a sick and sad obsession.” And unless the insanity stops, it seems inevitable that we will fish bluefin tuna until they are all gone.

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A 600 lb bluefin tuna entangled in a fish trap. Credit: NOAA.


Elizabeth Brown is a research scientist at Blue Ocean Institute.

6 Comments on “Depleted Bluefin Tuna Sold for $1.8 Million – A Sad and Sick Story

  1. Sel-fish-ly consuming an astounding 80% of all bluefin catches, Japan’s voracious appetite for tuna has now driven them to near extinction.

  2. Pingback: horrors: oceans

  3. It is an indictment on society and individuals and an example of humans pathological pursuit of it’s own destruction — following the tuna …

  4. We shouldn’t be taking that from the water. That is a marvel. An astounding beauty of nature and we’re killing it off without a second thought.

  5. I agree with all of the above comments.The writing’s on the wall for tuna unless we as a species come to our senses. Economics will not save the tuna. I’m for a sliver tuna pendant campaign similar to the Greenpeace silver dolphin campaign (of which I was a part) that we had in Australia to expel the Taiwanese Gillnetters from North Australia in the late 1980s. This campaign was highly successful. The Australian Government then had no option but to support the banning of gill netting world wide.
    Run properly, a world wide silver tuna campaign would rattle the political establishment to it’s electoral core – as well as the industry.
    The capture of sexually immature fish must be stopped as a first measure in saving the tuna. As tuna is a pelagic species and therefore highly migratory it knows no international boundaries. Therefore a co-ordinated international campaign seems to me to be the best option to”Save the Tuna” from extinction.

    Eddy Kemp

    Past Chairman of the Northern Territory Fishing Industry Council and past Chairman of the National Fishermens Association of Australia

  6. I understand that the management may or may not be 100% perfect. But just because they say it’s 4% of it’s highest population, does NOT mean it’s endangered. The fishermen stick to strict regulation to ensure proper spawning and allow them to reach breeding maturity.

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