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

A. Battenburg / Technical University of Munich

By Sarah Kennedy

Algae in a pond may look flimsy. But scientists are using algae to develop industrial-strength material that's as hard as steel but only a fraction of the weight.



Read More Show Less
Variety of fermented food korean traditional kimchi cabbage and radish salad. white and red sauerkraut in ceramic plates over grey spotted background. Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / Universal Images Group / Getty Image

By Anne Danahy, MS, RDN

Even if you've never taken probiotics, you've probably heard of them.

These supplements provide numerous benefits because they contain live microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, which support the healthy bacteria in your gut (1, 2, 3, 4).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

Singapore will become the first country in the world to place a ban on advertisements for carbonated drinks and juices with high sugar contents, its health ministry announced last week. The law is intended to curb sugar consumption since the country has some of the world's highest diabetes rates per capita, as Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less

A typical adult takes around 20,000 breaths per day. If you live in a megacity like Beijing, with many of those lungfuls you're likely to inhale a noxious mixture of chemicals and pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Fred Stone holds his brown swiss cow Lida Rose at his Arundel dairy farm on March 18 after a press conference where he spoke about PFAS chemical contamination in his fields. Gregory Rec / Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

By Susan Cosier

First there was Fred Stone, the third-generation dairy farmer in Maine who discovered that the milk from his cows contained harmful chemicals. Then came Art Schaap, a second-generation dairy farmer in New Mexico, who had to dump 15,000 gallons of contaminated milk a day.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters attend the 32nd annual Fur-Free Friday demonstration on Nov. 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Ella DeGea / Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that that bans the sale and manufacture of fur products in the state. The fur ban, which he signed into law on Saturday, prohibits Californians from selling or making clothing, shoes or handbags with fur starting in 2023, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Watchfield Solar Park in England. RTPeat / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Simon Evans

During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.

Read More Show Less
A demonstrator waves an Ecuadorian flag during protests against the end of subsidies to gasoline and diesel on Oct. 9 in Quito, Ecuador. Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo / Getty Images

The night before Indigenous Peoples' Day, an Indigenous-led movement in Ecuador won a major victory.

Read More Show Less