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The worldwide demand for tuna is higher than ever before. There are numerous reasons
for why tuna is such a desirable fish. First of all, tuna is the most common and prized ingredient
in the preparation of sushi because of its unique taste and texture as well as its intense color. In

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the past tuna was not as popular of a fish as it is now, but with the increase in the sashimi market
of the United States and Japan in the 1980s, tuna is now a very valuable commodity (Fromentin).
Many of us have seen that sushi restaurants have menus where many of the plates have tuna as
their primary ingredient. It is hard to imagine the massive amount of tuna that is used daily in
thousands of sushi restaurants all over the world, and whats even worse is that more and more
sushi restaurants keep opening. In the documentary Sushi: The Global Catch it is mentioned
that sushi is becoming more popular in countries like India and China that are just starting to
discover its unique taste. It is alarming to imagine these massive populations consuming tuna and
opening sushi restaurants at the same rapid rate as the United States has. Another level of this
problem is that as the demand of tuna increases, more needs to be caught.
Sushi has grown enormously in popularity due to its good taste and the fact that its
healthy. Secondly, there is a unique cultural aspect to it. The materials used for decorations in
sushi restaurants reflect how Japanese cultural heritage is. It gives a sensation to the eater as if
they were in Japan. Since most sushi restaurants are nicely decorated and fashionable, it makes
the eater feel exclusive. Even the way in which sushi is arranged on the plate is organized and
modern looking. Thirdly, people enjoy the fact that sushi is viewed as healthy since the
ingredients are simple and clean. Rice and raw fish are pretty much the main ingredients that are
used to make sushi. Especially recently, people have begun searching for healthier food choices,
and they see sushi as a good healthy alternative to junk food because of the simplicity of its
ingredients. Finally, the increasing demand for sushi even further increases the demand for tuna
in an unsustainable way.
In the past, the primary method used to catch tuna was by catching each tuna one at a
time using a fishing rod. As time went on, this method could not keep up with demand and new

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methods were used. There are two main methods used nowadays to catch tuna which are known
as Purse-Seine fishing and Longline fishing (Hampton). Purse-Seine fishing consists of using a
very large net to catch huge schools of fish by luring them into the net using what is known as
Fish Aggregating Device. Once they are inside the net, the ends of the net are pulled together like
a purse closing, and it is pulled to the surface. Longline Fishing consists of dropping a fishing
line filled with hooks which is extremely long that fish and other animals bite on to. Both of
these fishing methods result in what is known as bycatch. are extremely destructive because
many other animals, including dolphins and turtles, can get caught. The most commonly used
method to catch tuna is the Purse-Seine fishing method which is especially bad since it catches a
lot of fish at once including the younger ones, which doesnt allow tuna to reach their sexual
maturity. As a result, they cannot reproduce and a new generation cant be born.
In the documentary Sushi: The Global Catch the effect this has on the environment is
discussed. Tuna are at the top apex predators of the food chain in the ocean. Tuna consumes a
medium sized predator which consumes smaller types of fish. These smaller fish consume
bacteria and algae. By removing tuna from the ecosystem, we remove the predators of the
medium sized predator so they grow in numbers. These fish then consume all of the smaller fish.
Since there are no tiny fish to eat the algae, the algae multiply. The medium fish starve to death
and all that remains is bacteria and jellyfish. This is catastrophic for the oceans and destroys
them for future generations.
Seeing tuna faced with all of these dangers, we would expect that there is a group who is
in charge of keeping them safe. Sadly, this group does exist, but they have been doing a terrible
job since late 1990 to 2008 as it did not follow the advice given by its own scientists. This group
is known as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas or ICCAT for

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short. ICCAT consists primarily of scientists and governmental representatives as well as people
involved in the tuna industry. Their scientific advisors determine how much tuna can be caught
in a year to the point where the tuna population can remain healthy. Unfortunately, a combination
of economic interests between countries as well as the mismanagement of ICCAT stopped them
from making good decisions regarding the amount of tuna that could be caught in the
Mediterranean Sea. Most of the catches being made were not reported until 2007 which lead to
the overexploitation of tuna (Fromentin). However, ICCAT started listening to scientists
warnings in 2009. After nearly 20 years of failing nonstop, ICCAT has caused severe damage to
tuna populations that it is only now trying to fix. Recently, ICCAT imposed new rules for its
members that force them to listen to scientists or risk being removed from the commission.
Thanks to this, its newest plan for saving Atlantic tuna is projected to restore their numbers to
healthier levels by 2022 as a result of following very strict limits as to how many tuna can be
caught (Fromentin).
The attitude that average people have towards tuna is one of indifference even though its
in their hands to fix this problem. As we have already seen, the organization that is supposed to
protect tuna is ignoring the fact that it is in danger of going extinct so it is up to the consumer to
save it. People assume that since the ocean is huge, there will somehow be enough tuna to last
forever even if billions of people are consuming it. However, this way of thinking is very nave
and comes from the ignorance of the problems facing tuna. We as humans like being on the limit
line for everything. For instance, global warming is a big problem we are facing right now as a
planet and governments are trying to tell people to be more conscious of their own actions.
Although, if they do not contribute by doing their own part, nothing will get better. This is the
same situation as the one we are facing with tuna. In Dawn Katos article Battle of Bluefin: The

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Consumers Role in preserving the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, she sums up the relationship between
the consumer and tuna when she says becauserestaurantswillpayforwhattheconsumer
Some people have proposed that farm raising tuna will help mediate this problem.
However, it is a very long and complex process since there are a lot of challenges compared to
other types of fish. The fact that tuna consumes a huge amount of other fish makes it difficult to
feed them since it is very costly. Secondly, tuna in its larval stage, is very fragile and it is almost
impossible to grow them in captivity. Once they become larvae, they can die if they touch the
ground in a tank. Also, while they are developing, they are sensitive to changes in water
temperature and light. Lastly, tuna take around three to four years to reach sexual maturity and
reproduce which is a long time compared to other fish. More research needs to be done in order
to make it happen but for now, it is not realistically possible. As we said before, the only solution
in the near future is to stop consuming tuna in order to save the species (Hayashi).

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Work Cited

Brower, Kenneth. "Bluefin Tuna." Quicksilver Tuna. National Geographic, Mar. 2014. Web. 14
Feb. 2016.
Fromentin, Jean-Marc, Sylvain Bonhommeau, Haritz Arrizabalaga, and Laurence T. Kell. "The
Spectre of Uncertainty in Management of Exploited Fish Stocks: The Illustrative Case of
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna." Marine Policy 47 (2014): 8-14. EBSCO. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.


Sushi: The Global Catch. Dir. Mark Hall. Sakana Film Productions, 2012. Netflix.

Williams, Nigel. "Battle Lines Deepen to save Bluefin Tuna." Current Biology 19.15 (2009):
625-26. EBSCO. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.