The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is responsible for providing livelihoods, careers, and money to people involved in the industry. However, they are equally responsible for balancing the ocean ecosystem by being a top predator in the food chain.
So what are the consequences of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna overfishing, and what could regulations do to help both the industry and the environment?
The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Industry
The Bluefin Tuna is a goldmine for fishing companies selling to the sushi industry. In fact, this type of tuna is possibly the most valued fish in the sushi industry, which marks it at a high price.
Especially in Japan, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is considered a “prized fish,” both because of its size (this type of Tuna is abnormally large) and its taste. The fish is upheld as the highest quality fish for sushi in the region, and have therefore sold at obscenely high prices.
To put things into perspective, Bluefin Tunas have sold for over $3 million dollars in Japan, often to sushi restaurant chains.
For the fishing industry, these prices are very exciting. With just one fish having the potential to bring in millions of dollars, fishermen are desperate to hunt tuna for the sushi industry despite the consequences it has on the species and the environment.
Unfortunately, this overfishing – along with consequences of global warming – has led to the official critical endangerment of the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
Consequences of Overfishing
The consequences of overfishing Bluefin Tuna will be recognized in two areas: environmental consequences, and industry and economic consequences.
Environmental Consequences of Overfishing
The Bluefin Tuna is a top predator in the ecosystem. Top predators are responsible for keeping populations below them in the food chain “in check,” so to speak. In other words, making sure that they do not overpopulate and affect the environment as a whole.
If overfishing eventually leads to the extinction of the Bluefin Tuna, it will have drastic effects on the ecosystem of the ocean. Scientists predict that the demise of the Bluefin Tuna will end up increasing the squid population, which will in turn decrease the sardine population: another creature that supports the fishing industry.
The demise of the Bluefin Tuna will also lead to humans fishing lower down the food chain, which could negatively affect the populations of a variety of other fish.
All in all, the extinction of the Bluefin Tuna will lead to worse consequences than simply poor sushi options. After all, we only get one chance at a stable ecosystem; the sushi industry can always work on its marketing techniques!
Industrial and Economic Consequences
Despite the sushi industry having the option to rebrand its delicacies in the case of the Bluefin Tunas’ demise, it would still not be a pretty scene to watch the sushi and fishing industries adjust to the extinction of their most prized fish.
The fishing industry is a huge employer to people all over the world. Thousands of jobs are associated strictly with fishing Bluefin Tuna. If the tuna population went under, hundreds of people in the fishing industry would be without jobs, affecting the economies of the places they live.
Additionally, many sushi restaurants – especially in Japan – have branded themselves around the Bluefin Tuna market. If the fish is no longer available for use, restaurants may fail, costing the jobs of thousands of workers and again affecting the overall economy of the region.
Fishing Regulations on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
There are numerous organizations implementing regulations on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna fishing in order to conserve the species.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an organization that works specifically towards the conservation of Atlantic Tunas, including the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has also recently placed a new regulation of Bluefin Tuna, limiting numbers to three Bluefin Tunas a day per fishing vessel as of 2019.
Fishing vessels must also acquire an HMS permit in order to legally fish Bluefin Tuna.
Illegal Fishing of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Unfortunately, despite having good intentions, the regulations on the number of Bluefin Tuna one can fish has caused some other problems. Now, the amount of Bluefin Tuna that one can legally acquire is barely enough to make a living off of. So, some have turned to fishing the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna illegally.
In 2018, 80 million tons of tuna were found during an illegal fishing bust. The tuna were worth over €12 million and 76 people were arrested. While this was a notable bust because of the number of people involved and the amount of tuna caught, it is believed that illegal fishing of this type of tuna is actually quite normal (albeit on smaller scales).
Atlantic Bluefin Tunas are a treasure, both below the surface of the sea and above. While they have great value to the industries of fishing and sushi, they also have a responsibility to keep the oceanic ecosystem balanced.
Bluefin Tuna are being overfished to the point where they are now critically endangered. Yet, that does not seem to stop the industries from doing everything in their power to bring the tuna to market.
With more conservation and educational efforts, the Bluefin Tuna may have a chance of being saved, helping both the ecosystem and economy.