The Bluefin tuna is one of the largest predators of the sea, measuring well over 4 metres and weighing more than 750 kg. It's a warm-blooded, boned fish that can swim up to 90 kilometres per hour. Annually they migrate thousands of miles, crossing the world's oceans.
For millennia, mankind has fished for the Bluefin. Some of the traditional fishing techniques are still being used today. But commercial fishing techniques were launched in the Fifties. Ever since, Bluefin tuna stocks have been reduced by 97%. And more fishing vessels are being built right now. Almost every country in the Meditteranean is hunting Bluefin tuna.
International laws dictate that a Bluefin has to weigh at least 30 kg before slaughter, guaranteeing at least one reproduction cycle. That's because a tuna is sexually active from 5 years of age. But in reality the tunas are secretly caught and fattened in farms.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is setting higher fishing quotas than their own scientists advise. And specialists estimate that the real Mediterranean catch is four times the maximum quota. The main reason is because there is almost no enforcement of the international fishing laws, and most of the catches are illegal.
Sushi is the main reason the Bluefin is facing extinction. By far the biggest market for the Bluefin is Japan. Maguro sushi is extremely popular with the Japanese, while the use of Bluefin is a trend. Because up until 20 years ago Bluefin was considered unclean.
Recently, one single Bluefin clocked in at 300,000 euro. The less Bluefin tunas that are left in the oceans the more they will cost. This is also known as the economies of extinction, and is bringing the species on the verge of extinction.
Chances are that the last wild Bluefin tuna will die in 2012. If the Bluefin becomes extinct, it could have a major impact on the fragile ecosystems of our oceans. These ecosystems absorb most of the global warming and gives us up to 80% of our oxygen.
If the oceans die, we die.
Further readings: the Bluefin tuna on Wikipedia, "The Bluefin Bonanza" by Wietse van der Werf, website of ICCAT, website of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)