Bluefin tuna may not be a staple on the menu of any common restaurants you frequent, but sushi and seafood lovers have come to love the fatty, melty belly of a quality bluefin tuna. However, the fish is also on many do-not-eat lists for many environmentalists and consumers due to the decline in bluefin population.
Commercial fishing companies and the growing popularity of sushi have caused a severe decline in bluefin population. Overfishing has caused the population to decline by 70% since the 1970s, according to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Sushi lovers are looking for an equally enticing alternative, while commercial fishing operations are looking for ways to cut down on their impact of the population decline.
One company, an Icelandic seafood conglomerate, has purchased aquaculture land in Mexico where they plan to harvest “sustainable” bluefin tuna. This is the first of hopefully many efforts to manage the population of the fish and provide adequate amounts to consumers without having an impact on their population in the ocean.
90% of bluefin is consumed in Japan, but restaurants in the United States have caught on and begun offering the meat in their sushi dishes. With the decline in availability, chefs have been using ranched tuna as a way to fill their needs. Some say it tastes a bit different and the ranched fish have a bit more fat on them, but for the most part, the difference is not noticeable to tuna consumers.
The migratory nature and slow sexual maturity of bluefin contribute to the issue with sustainable harvests. The Obama Administration declined to protect the bluefin population under the Endangered Species Act, and it is instead considered to be a species under concern.
According to Monterey Bay’s Bridson who spoke with the LA Times, “The best way to be eating bluefin is to reduce our consumption down to what we can catch from a very well-managed, sustainable fishery, and it’s probably not a species that should ever really be farmed or ranched.”
Sounds like a species at such extreme risk of extinction shouldn’t be part of any meal, no matter how delicious it may be.