Sunday, January 31, 2010

By Qinyan Huang

    It is occurring at an alarming rate. The population of bluefin tuna is declining, to the point of near-extinction. Most people familiar with the issue agree on the reasons: commercial overfishing, environmental pollution and lack of enforcement of regulations meant to prevent overfishing.

So what can be done about it? I believe an important step may be to make it illegal for commercial fishermen to harvest and sell bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and other sought-after but endangered species. Can we stop commercial fishing of at-risk fish populations, and focus efforts on creating sustainable fish farms to meet the demand for supply? This is the key issue we are currently facing. The demand for fish throughout the world is expected to increase annually, reaching 120 million tons of fish a year by 2010.

In recent years, the world tuna industry has undergone remarkable expansion and structural changes. In the 1970s, the five major tuna processing countries were the United States, Japan, Spain, France and Italy. The 1980s saw the increasing participation of Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.

The big demand has turned tuna stocks to the verge of depletion. The popularity of Japanese sushi in the western world is putting pressure on tuna populations, turning them into endangered species. For instance, many sushi restaurants serve bluefin tuna, the world’s most popular fish after the caviar producing sturgeon. The fatty underbelly of the fish, often on the menu as Toro, has become Japan’s caviar and can command prices of up to 8-10 USD a piece. Also, the tuna has been commercially promoted as being the “chicken of the sea” because of its commonness and popularity in people’s diet worldwide. Tuna sandwich, for instance, is a mainstay of many restaurants. Tuna meat is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that build up high-density lipids, also known as “good cholesterol.” Consuming tuna is said to be effective in preventing heart attacks. And this shows you how popular tuna is in US:

Here are the recourses of the world tuna import and export data:
US tuna import report:
Japan tuna import report:
Global demand for fish:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"End of the Line"

By Michelle Dickey

Beyond just helping the ocean and the fish in the ocean stay balanced, overfishing is in-humane. People mainly think about cows or pigs or chickens being brutally murdered whenever they do actually think about how an item ended up on their plate; but fish can be murdered just as heartlessly. The bluefin tuna is slowly dwindling in its numbers and if things don't stop, they will soon cease to exist.
But there is hope! According to an article published by Willie Mackenzie on November 12th of last year (2009), talk has begun to rise about closing fisheries to help the bluefin tuna population grow once again. These closes would only take place for about a year, but that's still a step in a positive direction!

MacKenzie, Willie. "Could Bluefin Tuna Fisheries be Closed?." Fishing News 12 November 1009: n. pag. Web. 30 Jan 2010. .

"The End of the Line-Killing Bluefin Tuna." youtube. Web. 30 Jan 2010. .

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stop Overfishing

by Mohammed Odeh

An article on, "Overfishing imperils ocean life study says" written on March 03, 2009 by Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer states, "The stars of the ocean - bluefin tuna, salmon, whales and seabirds - suffer from dwindling food supplies as a result of heavy fishing driven by the demands of fish farms and climate change, according to a study released Monday.”

“Seven of the world's 10 largest commercial fisheries include small fish such as herring, anchovy, pollock, mackerel and whiting, which support the vast ocean web of big fish, marine mammals and birds, said the study by Oceana, a worldwide environmental group."

And this is something we all know. We're overfishing. There are ways to control it. We need to push our politicians to support this cause and vote for removals of global fishing subsidies, increase requirements on imported fish, and completely prevent the trade of fish that are in the most danger of overfishing.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ways to Alter Consumption

By Jennifer Winward

Over-fishing of the world’s oceans has become an increasingly important environmental issue, but what can you do about it? First, you can start altering your consumption. This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating fish. In fact, fish can be a healthy and great tasting dish. Instead you can become aware of the species that are in danger. Blue Ocean Institute has compiled a list of ocean friendly seafood choices and even has a printable guide, so you can keep a copy in your wallet for those trips to your favorite seafood restaurant! This guide is located on the website for OCEANA, which is an international ocean conservation organization. You can click the link here. This also lists fish species that contain high levels of mercury, which can cause health problems.

Another great option is, which provides fish and seafood products to retailers, restaurants and consumers. All of their items come from sustainable fisheries. So, not only are you helping the endangered fish in the world’s oceans, but you are also helping responsible businesses profit from your purchases.


By: Travis Lien

Sustainable fisheries are the obvious key to combating the rapid extinction of the bluefin tuna. However, there exist two problems; first, is the lack of motivation that fisherman and fisheries have to implement and maintain sustainable practices, and second, is the lack of knowledge consumers have about how the tuna they buy is being attained. Fortunately, ecolabeling solves both of these problems, at least in theory. Ecolabeling is best described by Michel J. Kaiser and Gareth Edward-Jones as “…the existence of a given label or mark on a product indicates that certain principles or practices have been adhered to during its production (393).” Problems of motivation are solved by the additional price of ecolabled products, generating a larger profit for facilities fit for certification. And of course consumers gain the option to buy products that support sustainability wherever they see the flashy blue mark.

The prominent organization responsible for ecolabeling and certifying fisheries and fishermen as sustainable is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). However, to eliminate bias and allow the MSC to focus on leadership, independent third party bodies perform the actual certifications by comparing fisheries to MSC standards. So far, as they celebrate their 10th anniversary with 42 certified fisheries, the MSC’s ecolabeling scheme is off to a slow yet promising start (

10th Anniversary. Marine Stewardship Council, 2009. Web. 17 Jan. 2010. .

Kaiser, Michel J., and Gareth Edward-Jones. "The Role of Ecolabeling in Fisheries Management and Conservation." Conservation Biology 20.2 (2006): 392-98. Society for Conservation Biology, 5 July 2005. Web. 17 Jan. 2010.

Longlining, Overfishing & Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

By: Qinyan Huang

From PBS Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture, I was informed that the Bluefin Tuna populations in the Atlantic Ocean have declined over 70% in the last 30 years and that it has become a threatened fish which is on the brink of extinction.

Bluefin Tuna contains high protein, omega-3 and omega-6, while low in fat and sodium, which means it is an excellent food source of essential fatty acids, which is very critical for health and disease prevention. Thus, Bluefin Tuna is one of best-selling fish around the world, especially for sushi aficionados. Due to the growing demands for Bluefin Tuna, it is over-fished to the point of extinction.

Bluefin Tuna is a highly migratory species that requires high levels of international cooperation for appropriate management and conservation. The United States is responsible for about only 2% of the global Bluefin Tuna catch. In U.S. fisheries, Bluefin Tuna are caught with purse seines, hand gears and longlines. Pelagic longline gear is not allowed to directly target Bluefin Tuna but is allowed to retain a limited amount of Bluefin Tuna caught incidentally while targeting other species, such as swordfish, yellowfin tuna, and bigeye tuna. Thus, habitat damaged by highly migratory species fishing gear, other than bottom longlines, is minor because the gear rarely comes in contact with the ocean floor.

However, in Japan, Pelagic longline gear is allowed to directly target Bluefin Tuna, and bottom longlines is widely used in local water. Higher operation cost, lower profit margins and stricter quotas in other parts of the world have created an irresistible urge for Japanese boats to take more Bluefin from their own waters. Furthermore, Japanese fisheries have no idea how many Bluefin Tuna they are catching or what size they are, and the prized Bluefin Tuna will soon fade away from Japanese restaurants’ obsession menu.

PBS Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture, casestudy.html
The Guardian -conservation-tuna

Government Subsidies Feeds the World’s Fishing Industry

By Pontus Abelt. Our ocean ecosystems are on the verge of collapse, and empirical evidence from numerous activist groups and government agencies show alarming reports on major declines in the ocean’s fish population and especially the highly sought after Bluefin tuna. This is mainly due to overt exploitation in terms of over-fishing, although climate change and pollution should also be considered, and while this issue has been on the world agenda since the early 1970s, there has been very little done to reduce and control the way the world’s fishing fleets operate. Instead of decreasing the number of these fishing fleets that destroy the ecological balance of marine life, the number of fleets is growing to meet the increased demand of fish production each year.

This increase, according to activist groups such as the WWF, is due to government subsidies that are allocated to the fishing industry. These subsidies are meant to help American fishing fleets to make up for financial loss within the fishing industry due to lower fishing quotas. However, the unintended consequences are that instead of compensating the fishing industry, these funds are used to equip the recipient’s fishing fleet that will enable these ships to compete against international fishing fleets. For example, in 2008, American fishing fleets received $1 billon in government subsidies that were supposed to go to sustainable fishing education and to establish state-led fisheries managements. However, these efforts have been over-ruled and the money was used instead to equip fishing fleets, which eventually leads to increased over fishing, perpetuating a problem this funding was designed to solve.

New nets could end fishing quotas

By: Richard Dickey

New policies in the South East may end fishing quotas. Currently, fishermen have a set amount of fish they are allowed to catch. Any extra has to be thrown overboard. This is a waste of good fish for the fisherman, and also a detriment as they are sometimes forced to keep dead fish that comes up in the nets.
A new type of net that uses larger holes could solve this problem. Current trials have shown a "reduction of up to 67% in the amount of dead fish they have to throw overboard". Also these new nets help to only catch mature (meaning larger) fish. Smaller juvenile fish simply swim through the net. Dead fish, due to them not struggling, also tend to pass through the holes.
The end result of these new nets is to put an end to fishing quotas. If the nets work as they should, all that needs to be done is to have all fishing vessels equipped with these nets and have them inspected. Because of the effectiveness of the nets in only catching the "good" fish, quotas could be all but abolished.
"Joe Borg, the European Fisheries Commissioner, admitted in April that his Common Fisheries Policy needed to be totally rewritten." This sums up the current state of fishing policy. If these new nets are used properly, new policy could be written to make the industry much more effective.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

High Costs of Eating Bluefin

There are many great benefits to eating fish. They are a good source of lean protein and are high in nutrients and omega 3 fatty acids, which have documented benefits for the heart. However, there is an ugly side to eating some types of fish such as bluefin tuna, which is popular in sushi dishes. Fishing practices are depleting the bluefin population. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood WATCH program, "the Atlantic population has declined by 90% since 1970." Bluefin tuna contain dangerously high levels of mercury. So, not only are the fishing practices harmful to the bluefin population, but consuming the fish can be harmful to humans. Yet bluefin are being fished faster than they can reproduce. A bit of a paradox you could say!
Its large size is great for the bluefin tuna but not so great for the humans who consume it due to high levels of mercury. Bluefin live longer than other types of tuna and can accumulate more mercury over the lifespan. Why is the bluefin tuna so full of mercury? Mercury occurs naturally in the atmosphere but much of what is in the ocean comes from industrial sources such as run off. The mercury in this run off is converted by bacteria in the water and then absorbed by the fish either through their food or as the water passes over their gills. What are the effects of mercury consumption? According to information provided by the Environmental Defense Fund, eating mercury-contaminated fish can lead to cancer as well as birth defects and can “severely impact a child’s growth”. Fortunately, there are many sustainable alternatives to fish such as the bluefin. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood WATCH program provides information on healthy and sustainable fish options. They have a handy pocket guide detailing the best and worst fish options. There’s even an app for your iPhone so you can make healthy, environmentally sustainable choices when you are out. The link to the Seafood WATCH program is:

More information about seafood and your health can also be found:

The Kindai sustainable desirable Alternative

By Adam Konder
           The culture of Japan is deeply connected to fishing. One of the key barriers for creating a global sustainable fishing policy will be convincing the people of cultures that are so deeply connected to fishing to alter their way of thinking. According to Howard Gardner’s book, Changing Minds, “while it may be easy and natural to change one’s mind during the first years of life, it becomes difficult to alter ones’ mind as the years pass” (17). I would venture to say that this concept of increasing resistance due to age can be applied to the age of other cultures, which may have solidified their views over hundreds of years. It will be challenging to overcome this resistance.

One way to overcome resistance is to present a sustainable alterative that may be able to satisfy cultural ideals. According to an article written by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post, there have been efforts made to replace the Bluefin Tuna with what has been called the Kindai Bluefin. These fish are produced from “hatched eggs instead of captured juveniles” and according to the article, “Many environmentalists have encouraged the efforts, saying they may represent the best chance of staving off the tuna’s extinction.” The article does, however, point out potential flaws of this new farming method, claiming that the farming of Kindai fish may still cause harm, not only to efforts made by environmentalists to reduce consumption of the Bluefin tuna, but to the populations of feeder fish needed to produce the Kindai (although the amount needed is about 50% less than traditional farming methods). Presenting this alternative, although imperfect, may be a strong step towards protecting the Bluefin Tuna.

Eilperin, Juliet. "A More Sustainable Tuna?"

Gardner, Howard. Changing Minds The Art And Science of Changing Our Own And Other People's Minds (Leadership for the Common Good). New York: Harvard Business School, 2006. Print.

Inform the People

By Michelle Dickey

I love sushi. I will be the first to admit that prior to this wake-up call, I had indulged in many a delectable tuna sushi meal. But did you know that that red tuna in front of you is an endangered species? Probably not. The reason? Well, for me it was the name. I had heard about the bluefin tuna quickly becoming an endangered species, but I hadn't heard anything about red tuna becoming extinct. Little did I know, and little did I inquire until now, but that red tuna that I was enjoying is one in the same with the bluefin tuna.
The bluefin tuna is rapidly depleting in numbers and becoming closer and closer to extinction simply because of overfishing. While solutions to this problem vary greatly from the absurd; stopping ALL fishing of tuna forever, to the not so absurd; fish farms and hatcheries, I believe that one of the very first steps that needs to be taken is to inform people that they are eating this endangered fish. There is no way an over-night change is remotely possible, but taking a step and increasing the knowledge of people about this unfortunate topic is a small step in the right direction.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sustainable Fisheries: Overfishing of big Marine Fishes

By Oluwaseun Owosekun

The depletion of big marine fishes is one problem that started with the over-fishing in the oceans for human consumption. These fishes are being harvested to the point of extinction. According to the World Wildlife Federation (2008), there are many contributing factors to the depletion of these big fishes. For starters, the number of fishing fleets on the world’s oceans is more than double what the oceans can sustain. According to a published report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 95% of the world’s big marine fishes are either overexploited or depleted resulting in the complete collapse of ecosystems (Overfishing – A Global Disaster, 2007). The WWF also stated that technological advances, disregard for fishing laws, lack of good fishing management, and unfair fishing agreements greatly contributed to the reduction in the number of big marine fishes. Scientists such as Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia stated in an article published on that there is nowhere on earth that has not been over-fished. Environmentalists want the fishing of large marine fishes to stop completely in order for the number of fishes to recover. However, the fishing industry disagrees because they simply do not believe that the oceans can run out of fishes. My management and sustainment plan to revive the depleted species of large fishes in the world oceans is to get quota law passed that will put a limit on the number of fishes that can be harvested from the ocean. I will also work to create programs that will subsidize commercial fishermen to prevent economic hardship them and their families. The first plan to create a quota on the fishing industries will have to be a worldwide agreement; therefore the United Nations will need to get involved in creating the laws and regulations. I will need to present the problem to the United Nations backed with facts. Then find ways to get the governments of major fishing countries to agree to put a quota on their fishing industries. The presentation will also include a proposal to help the fishermen who will be hurt by the cut back on fishing by subsidizing their losses. In order to qualify for the subsidies, the fishermen will have to prove that the quota set by the governments will gravely affect their livelihood. The governments of the countries involved in setting this quota will also have to make sure the rules are enforced properly. I believe my plan will be met both positively and negatively. The environmentalists will not be completely happy with my solution, but will view it as progress. This is because environmentalists want the fishing of large marine fishes to stop completely in order for the number of fishes to recover.

Other problems that have resulted from fishermen’s techniques for catching fish besides declining fish stock are bycatch and habitat destruction. Referencing chapter 11 (p.276) of Visualizing Environmental Science, bycatch is described as “the fishes, marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and other animals caught unintentionally in a commercial fishing catch”. This is a problem because, over time, the effects of bycatch will start to affect the population of these other unintentionally killed animals. In addition to bycatch, habitat destruction is another problem created because of overfishing. Habitat destruction occurs when fishing boats, or vessels drag their fishing equipments along the ocean floor resulting in the destruction of marine habitats. My plans will significantly affect the fishing community. If restrictions are imposed on the number of large fishes, the income of many in the fishing industries will be lost. The industrial fishing companies will have to lay off workers or shut down operations completely because it is not profitable with the amount of fishes they are allowed to catch. Many people might have to look for other kinds of jobs or leave the community in search of better lives. However, with government subsidies, there might not be as big an effect as there might have been without it.


Berg, L. R., & Hager, M. C. (2007). Visualizing environmental science. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Overfishing – A Global Disaster (2007).

Walton, Marsha (2003). Study: Only 10 percent of big ocean fish remain.

World Wildlife Federation (2008). Problems: Poorly Managed Fishing.

Sustainable Fisheries

The world’s major fisheries are being fished out well over their sustainable levels. While fish is currently the largest source of the world’s protein, it is soon to be a different story. Overfishing of major fisheries is leading to depleted levels of fish for consumption and brink of extinction for some fish species. The consequences of overfishing can lead to reducing the population of fish in the fishery to the point of not being able to return it to a sustainable level. It also is devastating one of our major protein sources. The shortage of fish in their marine habitat can lead to the destruction of the marine ecosystem. While this is a major problem facing the fish market today, it is also one that many consumers are unaware of. If we cannot raise awareness quickly and make major steps towards keeping our fisheries at sustainable levels, then we can look forward to a skyrocket in the price of a tuna melt and a possible raise in hunger across the globe.