Open Season on Bluefin Tuna Puts Species at Imminent Risk of Commercial Extinction

July 6, 2010

On the opening day of the bluefin tuna fishing season, Greenpeace called for the fishery to be closed to prevent the species’ imminent commercial extinction – and for restaurants to stop serving the endangered fish.

"Don't sell it. Don't buy it. Don't eat it," said John Hocevar, director of Greenpeace's Oceans campaign. "Eating bluefin tuna is like eating a tiger or a rhino. Critically endangered species are not food."

The bluefin, which is served to wealthy consumers in ultra high-end restaurants, is one of the most extraordinary animals in the sea: the size of a small elephant, it can move faster than a cheetah, reaching speeds of more than 50 miles per hour within seconds. Once slaughtered, most bluefin tuna individuals are packed into individual refrigerated coffins and flown to the Tokyo tuna auction, where they are sold at prices of up to $100,000 per tuna - and then flown to winning bidders in the United States, Europe, China, and other parts of the world.

"In addition to being an endangered species, bluefin tuna probably has the highest carbon footprint of any so-called food in the world," Hocevar said.   

In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna's scientific committee had recommended that the bluefin catch be limited to 7500 tons- just to keep the already depleted population stable. Under pressure from the European Union, the Commission rejected that advice and instead allowed a catch of 22,500 tons.

If past patterns persist, the actual catch is likely to far exceed the 22,500 ton level. In 2007, for example, the total catch was 61,100 tons, twice the legal catch agreed to that year.

"With unchecked pirate fishing and shamefully inept management, the governments of the world have put this extraordinary creature on an express track to extinction," Hocevar said. "The new administration can show its commitment to protecting our precious ocean resources by immediately insisting on a moratorium to allow bluefin to recover."

Since 2006, scientists have been ringing the alarm bell on the dire state of the bluefin tuna stock and have urged governments to strictly limit fishing and enforce existing limits, as well as to protect the species' spawning grounds during the crucial months of May and June.

Greenpeace advocates the creation of a network of 'no-take' marine reserves, protecting 40 percent of the world's oceans, as the long-term solution to the overfishing of tuna and other species, and the recovery of overexploited oceans.

Other contacts: Photos: For high resolution photos, contact: Bob Meyers, Photo Editor, + 1 202 319 2453;

VVPR info: Contact: Jane Kochersperger, Greenpeace Media Officer, + 1 202 680 3798 cell; John Hocevar, Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Director, + 1 202 512 454 6140


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