American Oceans
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Are Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Endangered?

Atlantic bluefin tuna are the largest species of tuna and are native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Not only are they known for their immense size, but they are also highly coveted in the food industry. 

Critically Endangered Bluefin Tuna

As you may have guessed, bluefin tuna are in fact endangered. More specifically, they’re ranked as a critically endangered species. 

So when did the bluefin tuna become endangered? It turns out the species was actually declared as such in May of 2011. In other words, this fish has been at risk of extinction for nearly a decade. 

Why is the Bluefin Tuna Endangered?

Boat with tuna

Though there may be a few reasons these fish are endangered, most of the population decline can be attributed to the fishing industry and markets. 

As mentioned above, bluefin tuna are frequently sought after in the food industry. This is due to the size of the fish and the fact that their flesh is quite fatty. 

Specifically, these animals are caught and used for sushi or canned tuna. However, as a result of the continued demand for these products, bluefin tuna are overfished. 

This has led to a significant decrease in their populations, putting them at dangerously low levels. Specifically, Atlantic bluefin tuna populations have declined by 72-82% across the Atlantic Ocean in the past 40 years.

An additional but related cause for the endangerment of bluefin tuna is aquaculture. Fishermen sometimes capture these fish when they’re young and raise them in captivity to ensure they grow larger.

Once they have reached their full size, these fish are sold to markets in Japan. This of course decreases the wild population of these animals. 

Ecological disasters such as oil spills can also affect the population of these fish, though that is not the primary reason for their decline currently.

Lastly, bluefin tuna grow and mature much slower than other fish. This means it takes longer for populations to increase.

In other words, as overfishing and aquaculture continue, it is difficult for populations to keep up with these declines. 

What Would Happen if Bluefin Tuna Went Extinct?

bluefin tuna eating a sardine

It is essential to note that each species in an ecosystem plays an important role in that habitat. Whether it be balancing the food chain or contributing to the community in another way, the extinction of any species can have a detrimental effect on the populations of many other animals.

When it comes to bluefin tuna, it is important to understand that these fish are predators. Due to this, their presence keeps the populations of their prey in check.

These populations include squid, crustaceans, mackerel, herring, and other kinds of fish. If bluefin tuna were to go extinct, it is likely that these sea creatures would quickly become overpopulated.

This would cause a sort of domino effect as the increase in numbers of these animals would lead to a decrease in the populations of their prey. If predator and prey populations are not kept in check, entire food chains can become unbalanced.

Additionally, bluefin tuna have their own set of predators, sharks and killer whales. While these animals have other sources of food, the extinction of bluefin tuna would certainly decrease their available food resources. 

Are Bluefin Tuna Protected?

In order to protect bluefin tuna and to avoid extinction, some policies and regulations have been put in place. 

First and foremost, there are yearly quotas put in place for each kind of fish. Fishermen must stay within this quota to ensure overfishing does not occur. Luckily, these quotas have been set at lower numbers in recent years. 

Some groups have also tried to ban the fishing of bluefin tuna altogether, but unfortunately, this has been unsuccessful.

However, some areas have opened up additional sections of the sea to fishing to allow it to be more spread out. 

Much like the bluefin tuna quotas, swordfish have quotas as well. Research has shown that the levels of caught swordfish have declined greatly since the implementation of these quotas. This shows promise that bluefin tuna populations may be able to see some recovery. 

Takeaways

Though the populations of Atlantic bluefin tuna contribute to many global companies, it is important to keep in mind that these animals are at high risk of extinction. Without these fish, the populations and lives of many other sea creatures will be impacted. 

Consumerism is a powerful tool and bluefin tuna must be protected, so why don’t we all skip the tuna salad tomorrow and opt for something more sustainable? To learn more about the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna visit our Fact & Information Guide.

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