At the recent CITES Agreement conference in Doha Qatar, a proposal to ban commercial fishing for the Atlantic bluefin tuna, a prized delicacy in Japan, was defeated. It happened during a meeting by representatives of the 175 countries that belong to this agreement which was originally enacted to save endangered animal species. The giant fish, which can grow to a length of 2.5 meters and weigh up to 350 kilograms, are one of the longest living ocean fish; living as long as 30 years – providing they don’t get caught. All too often they wind up in Tokyo sushi bars, and their future appears to not be very good, since the UN backed conference could not circumvent the opposition to a ban on the export of the fish. Environmentalists worldwide are outraged. But we in the Middle East should care. Our region is one of the most important spawning grounds for this majestic fish.
Only the US, Norway and Kenya openly supported the export ban; while countries like Japan (naturally) and Canada opposed the ban – along with scores of poor countries which make part of their livelihoods off catching and selling bluefin tuna.
Why the Mediterranean factors in to the future of bluefin tuna is obvious when it was revealed in an article in Grist, one of the world’s most important environment news web sites (our Karin has contributed there before), is that the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea are the two main spawning grounds for this fish.
The bluefin also grow slower and live much longer than other endangered fish species, including swordfish, which was once considered to be threatened with extinction. According to the Grist article, swordfish are actually making a comeback, as they reproduce in many locations and grow to adult size much quicker and the bluefins do.
Adverse environmental conditions, like man-made pollution and global warming have been blamed for the decimation of many fish species in the world’s seas and oceans. But in the case of the bluefin, its greatest enemies are fisherman, many of whom come from poor countries and have little or no regard for regulations by organizations like the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which forbids the capture of bluefin tuna that weigh less than 30 kg, and set a quota of 13,500 tons for the year 2010.
Tuna that’s okay to eat
The danger of extinction for bluefin tuna does not mean that people should never buy cans of tuna again in their local supermarket, however. There are many species of tuna in the world’s oceans, including:
Little tuny or bonito
What winds up as “Charlie the Tuna” (Starkist) or “Chicken of the Sea” can be all or any of the above; although white fleshed Albacore usually wind up being chosen over the dejected “Charlie” in those Starkist adds.
But even though the 2010 quota of 13,500 “allowable” metric tons is lower that 2009 limit of 20,000 metric tons, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that it won’t take long before these great fish may one day be gone from the world’s seas and oceans. Sorry, Charlie!
Image via Wikipedia
More on endangered animal species from the Middle East region:
Persian Gulf “Mermaids” Face Man Made Environmental Threats
Coastal Erosion Threatens Marine Life in Gulf Region
Garbage and Sewage Threaten Marine Life in Hizbollah Controlled Lebanon