Quantcast

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

Insights + Opinion
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less