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:

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