How Our Love of Sushi is Driving the Bluefin Tuna to Extinction

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Sushi, once the object of squeamish faces and ‘but it’s raw!’ exclamations, is now a must-have in any supermarket aiming to impress the ‘cultured millennial’ and deluxe sushi lovers. The sushi industry has been booming in recent years and continues to grow… swimmingly.

But the consumption of fish-sushi (i.e. non-vegetarian/vegan sushi) is threatening the existence of the endangered bluefin tuna.

There are two different types of Bluefin tuna – the Atlantic Bluefin and Pacific Bluefin – and both are on the brink of extinction thanks to our high-end eating habits.

The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 1.6 million Pacific Bluefin tuna currently remain in the ocean. Seems like a lot, right? While this might seem so, Ben Enticknap, the Pacific campaign manager and senior scientist at Oceana, said that this 1.6 million is a meagre 2.6% of the original population. As for the Atlantic Bluefin, its population is known to be at least half of what it used to be.

The problem is not only that the tuna are being removed from the ocean for foods like sushi, but many are caught before having a chance to reproduce. The fishing process is grossly unsustainable.

According to Enticknap“[m]ost of the catch are fish that are less than 1 year old… So what’s happening is that they’re… hitting the juveniles that aren’t even old enough to reproduce.”

Given that these tuna can live up to 40, be over 9 foot long and more than 1,000 pounds, it is crazy – and deeply concerning – how humans are wiping them out so significantly.

Much bluefin tuna is sold in Japan – among other Asian countries – and large fish can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.However their worth goes far beyond this, and these fish desperately need protecting. A new WWF report found that more than 85% of global fish stocks in our oceans are at significant risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, leading to unstoppable over-fishing. Yet, the Pacific Bluefin has been denied the ‘endangered status’ and so lacks the protections it needs.

Jonathan Balcombe, ecologist and author of What a Fish Knowsin an interview with The Dodo suggested that the duty to save the Bluefin tuna lies with us – consumers.

He commented on the importance of remembering that fish like the Bluefin tuna are fellow animals and, significantly, sentient beings. Balcombe argues that numerous scientific studies have proven that fish are capable of experiencing pain and a plethora of emotions, just like our dogs, our cats, us.

He expressed allegiance with the ethical concerns about over-fishing and eating fish, saying:

“If people have trouble relating to fish, it’s probably because [fish] are really out of view… We look out over an ocean or a lake and we don’t see them, so we’ve been really alienated from them through history. Most of our contact with them is when they’re floundering around dying, gasping on land after we catch them.”

The justification for consuming fish-sushi is running… fin. Make a difference to these irreplaceable animals and to the oceans, and opt for vegan sushi – it’s delicious, nutritious, increasingly available, easy to make, and best of all cruelty free.

You can also sign this pledge and vow to help save Bluefin tuna before it’s too late, and share this article to your sushi-loving friends. Don’t be a flop, do your bit!

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