Quantcast

EcoWatch Exclusive: Ocean Conservation Expert Carl Safina on the Tuna That Sold for $3 Million

Blue fin tuna jumping to catch flying fishes. bbevren / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Bluefin tuna made the news this week when a 612-pound specimen of the fascinating but vulnerable fish sold for a record $3.1 million at a New Year's auction at Tokyo's Toyosu fish market Saturday. The purchaser was Japanese sushi chain owner and self-proclaimed "Tuna King" Kiyoshi Kimura.

"The tuna looks so tasty because it's fat and (looks) very fresh. It is a good tuna. But I think I did too much," Kimura said, as CNN reported.


But what do auctions like this mean for a fish whose Pacific population has declined by 96 percent over the last 400 years, as Al-Jazeera English reported in the clip shown below?

🇯🇵 Japan's sushi king pays record price for bluefin tuna l Al Jazeera English youtu.be

EcoWatch spoke with renowned conservationist and writer Carl Safina to find out.

"The prices accorded these fish in Japan have long been insane," Safina told EcoWatch in an email. "The fish become an ego contest for wealthy restaurateurs one-upping each other to display their wealth. The higher the price, the more they devalue the actual fish as the magnificent wild creature that it is."

Safina explained what made bluefin tuna so incredible.

"Bluefin tunas, largest and most wide-ranging of all tunas, are several species of warm-blooded, ocean-crossing giants that can travel at highway speeds and can weigh almost a ton," he wrote.

However, the fish are in serious trouble throughout the world's oceans. In addition to their depletion in the North Pacific, they have been apparently wiped out in the South Atlantic due to overfishing. In the North Atlantic, they are at around 18 percent of their 1950 numbers, according to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna.

But the valuable bluefin are one of the world's most exploited fish, and their desirability has consequences. Catch quotas were raised by 50 percent for 2017 to 2020, according to ScienceAdvances, after management practices helped increased the population in the Atlantic ocean.

"They are completely awesome creatures," Safina told EcoWatch. "If it was up to me, they would never be fished commercially or sold and they would be allowed to return to their former abundance and their role in nature."

Safina is familiar with the tensions surrounding this fish. He was featured in the film Bluefin by John Hopkins, which looks at the bluefin fishing industry in North Lake, Canada, where a surprising resurgence of bluefin tuna left fishermen and scientists scrambling for answers.

"The intense and acrimonious debate among Canadian fishermen whose catches get flown to Tokyo for the daily auction is a microcosm of the intensity and passion in the inflamed pursuit of bluefin tuna through the oceans of the world," Safina told EcoWatch.

Safina has a Ph.D. in ecology. He worked in ocean conservation for many years, leading campaigns to ban driftnets, rewrite U.S. fisheries law, pass a UN global fisheries treaty and conserve sharks, tuna and other fish. He now focuses on writing and runs the Safina Center, which works to produce both scientific and creative projects advocating conservation. He is the inaugural holder of the Endowed Research Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University.

Correction: This article has been updated to provide greater clarity regarding the increase in catch quotas.

Sponsored
Prince William and British naturalist David Attenborough attend converse during the World Economic Forum annual meeting, on January 22 in Davos, Switzerland. Fabrice Cofferini /AFP / Getty Images

Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.

During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.

Read More Show Less
EV charging lot in Anaheim, California. dj venus / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Electric vehicle sales took off in 2018, with a record two million units sold around the world, according to a new Deloitte analysis.

What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less