One of the world’s most important resources is its oceans. A tenth of the world’s population relies on fisheries for their livelihoods, and fish make up a significant portion of the world’s protein intake. Not to mention the fact that fish is a major component in sushi, and sushi restaurants in the United States are expected to continue to experience steady growth in the following years. While this growth in an industry which provides relatively healthy sources of protein and jobs for millions of people is great, it has dangerous implications for some of our ocean’s most vulnerable species, specifically the bluefin tuna.
The demand for tuna, especially bluefin, is continually increasing in western markets, and despite slight decreases in some Asian markets, demand overall remains incredibly high. One would think that this is great for the tuna business, and it is in the short-term. However, overfishing means that the tuna stock becomes lower, meaning that fishermen either have to go farther out to catch new stock or be willing to catch smaller, poorer-quality fish. In Japan, this resulted in the most recent catch of bluefin tuna trading at one-fifth the price level compared to 2018. This is directly the result of fishermen only being able to catch smaller, less desirable fish.
I’m not going to argue that tuna is not delicious, because it is. However, just like beef and pork, it would be best for the environment if we curbed our massive overconsumption of the fish. It would be best to heavily regulate it, leaving it as a delicacy for special occasions, or to expand protected spawning and no-fishing areas for the tuna in order to allow it to replenish its stock. A larger tuna tends to be fattier (and therefore tastier) and we need to allow time for tuna to get to that size. Decreasing our consumption in the short term would lead to higher-quality tuna in the long term, once stocks have been replenished to sustainable levels and fishing occurs at a sustainable level.
However, our government is currently looking to cut back on these protections, reopening “surface longline fishing in their spawning hotspots during peak times of April and May”. These regulations are key to maintaining fishing stocks, and this will only further deplete already damaged stocks of Atlantic bluefin.
Other than call our federal officials, what can be done? First we can cut down our tuna consumption and be more educated overall about the sustainability of our seafood. Monteray Bay Aquarium has made a very intuitive site where you can quickly look up what specific species are the most-sustainable choice. Furthermore, try to avoid tuna when getting sushi, as bluefin is an incredibly popular choice in the industry yet is one of the most vulnerable fish species.
It is up to all of us to make choices that positively impact our environment, whether that be protesting UConn to divest from fossil fuels, campaigning for expansion of protected wilderness areas or even making relatively minimal dietary changes. However, advocating these choices to others can be just as helpful, as many don’t think about such issues or are simply unaware of the dire situation our environment and many of our keystone species are in. We should all reflect on how we can leave this earth better than we found it.
Cameron Cantelmo is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.