Crash! Conservationists also warned that the vast majority caught were juveniles and had never reproduced . The Guardian reports
The bluefin tuna, which has been endangered for several years and has the misfortune to be prized by Japanese sushi lovers, has suffered a catastrophic decline in stocks in the Northern Pacific Ocean, of more than 96%, according to research published on Wednesday.
Last week, one fish sold in Japan for more than £1m, reflecting the rarity of the bluefin tuna and the continued demand for its fatty flesh, which is sold for high prices across Asia and in some high-end western restaurants.
Bluefin tuna is one of nature’s most successful ocean inhabitants, the biggest of the tuna and a top-of-the-food-chain fish with few natural predators. But the advent of industrial fishing methods and a taste for the species among rich sushi devotees have led to its being hunted to the brink of extinction.
If current trends continue, the species will soon be functionally extinct in the Pacific, and the frozen bodies held in a few high-security Asian warehouses will be the last gasp the species.
More than nine out of 10 of the species recently caught were too young to have reproduced, meaning they may have been the last generation of the bluefin tuna.
Amanda Nickson, of the Pew Environment Group, which produced the latest report, said: “There is no logical way a fishery can have such a high level of fishing on juveniles and continue.”
She said that urgent measures needed to be taken in order to preserve stocks and allow them to recover. “The population of Pacific bluefin is a small fraction of what it used to be and is in danger of all but disappearing,” she said. “It’s a highly valuable natural commodity and people naturally want to fish something that gives them such a high return.”
She called for fishing of the species to be halted as a matter of urgency. Although there are measures to manage the exploitation of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic, and some measures in the eastern Pacific, the main spawning ground for Pacific bluefin tuna in the western part of that ocean is not managed. The main fishing fleets exploiting the stocks are from Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the US, and the high value of the few remaining fish is a further encouragement to fishermen to hunt down the last of the species. A single specimen could make the catchers rich for life, and without catch limits and rigorous enforcement, there is nothing to stop fishermen pursuing them.
Nickson said: “This assessment shows just how bad the situation really is for this top predator. This highly valuable fish is being exploited at almost every stage of its life cycle. Fishing continues on the spawning grounds of this heavily overfished tuna species.”
About two-thirds of the world’s tuna comes from the Pacific, but bluefin tuna accounts for only about 1% of this. For years, the species was neglected in fisheries management, being lumped in with other more prolific species. But in recent years it has become clear that it was in danger, from overfishing and its own biology – being bigger than other tuna, it takes longer to come to sexual maturity, which scientists estimate takes between four and eight years, which limits its reproductive ability and makes it more vulnerable to the predations of modern industrialised fishing techniques.
- Tuna Species Sold at Record Price Faces Overfishing, Study Says – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Bluefin tuna sells for record $1.76 million in Japan; sushi anyone? (grindtv.com)
- Tuna Numbers Reduced By Over 96 Percent (news.discovery.com)
- Overfishing Causes Pacific Bluefin Tuna Numbers to Drop 96% (ecowatch.org)
- Pacific bluefin population down 96.4% (worldfishing.net)
- Bluefin tuna sells for record S$2.14m in Tokyo (todayonline.com)
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is said to be twice the size of Texas – and is now being added to by debris from the Japanese tsunami. Stephen Moss reports in The Guardian
A motorbike, golf clubs, a football belonging to a Japanese schoolboy: just some of the estimated 4.8m tonnes of debris swept into the sea by last year’s tsunami in Japan, bits of which have already washed up on the shores of Alaska and Canada. Around two-thirds of it sank off the coast of Japan, but the rest is now drifting across the Pacific towards North America, stretching across an estimated 4,000 miles of ocean.
Much of it will swirl around for ever in the fabled garbage patch in the north Pacific. The problem with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is that it’s hard to spot. Most of it consists of tiny bits of plastic, forming a thin and constantly shifting film on the surface of the ocean. Garbage patchologists say it’s twice the size of Texas, but there are also garbage-patch deniers who claim it’s a fraction of that size.
Bill Francis at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California likens it to “a big toilet that never flushes”. Donovan Hohn, author ofMoby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea, who traced the journey of thousands of Floatee bath toys that tumbled overboard en route from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Washington in 1992, says he imagined it as a floating junkyard, but that in reality it’s a marine desert where little life can survive. “If you went fishing in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” he writes in Moby-Duck, “all you’d likely catch aside from garbage is plankton.”
Hohn’s mock-heroic quest has a serious subtext: the trashing of the oceans. The smaller islands and reefs of Hawaii are the indices of that poisoning. There is little indigenous pollution, yet they are littered with fishing lines, bottle tops, Lego pieces, golf tees, plastic bottles, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, syringes, tyres, petrol cans and plastic dinosaurs, swept there by the currents of the north Pacific subtropical gyre (a large system of rotating ocean currents).
The garbage from the Japanese tsunami joins this ocean of debris, including not just Hohn’s yellow plastic ducks, green frogs, blue turtles and red beavers, but loads of basketball shoes and ice hockey gloves lost in similar squalls to that which saw the Chinese bath toys go overboard. No one can blame the Japanese for the latest surge of garbage, but for everything else, the great tide of crap that is flooding the Pacific, we have to carry the can.
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch Awareness Video (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)
- ‘I’m Not A Plastic Bag’: The Touching Journey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (comicsalliance.com)
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch : World’s Biggest Landfill in the Pacific Ocean? (rashidfaridi.wordpress.com)
- Cars & TVs that last 25-years (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (sellingsustainability.wordpress.com)
- Research Draft 2: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (envirowriters.wordpress.com)
- What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch? (mnn.com)
- Journey To The Gyre: A Trip Into The Heart Of The Pacific Garbage Patch (gadling.com)
- Research Project Part 2: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (envirowriters.wordpress.com)
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (nesapfich.wordpress.com)
When will we ever learn? Just when we are making progress to make a fish sustainable…
The WCPFC is a 25-member organisation including Australia, the EU, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines that oversees and regulates migratory fish stocks such as tuna and marlin in the Pacific. Its jurisdiction covers 20% of the planet’s surface.
In January 2010, the WCPFC placed the ban on parts of the Pacific Ocean, where 60% of the world’s tuna are sourced, to conserve the population of the bigeye tuna, which scientists classified as overfished. Other tuna species like skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore also found in the Pacific high seas but their numbers have not reached an alarming low.
Although it lifted the ban, the commission maintained that entry to the marine reserves would be limited, refusing proposals from the European Community and South Korea for a free-for-all access to one of the world’s richest fishing grounds.
“The Pacific Commons is now open. But for all practical purposes, access will be limited,” said Mark Dia of Greenpeace. “They knew that everybody would suffer if a free-for-all access is granted,” he added.
The permitted areas for tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean
The WCPFC approved the request of the Philippine government, the third top tuna harvester in the Pacific after Japan and South Korea, to fish in pocket 1 of the Pacific, which is bounded by the island nations of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
In exchange for fishing access, the Philippine government must report its catch and limit the number of fishing vessels to 36, Dia said. Filipino vessels must also apply for international fishing permits before entering pocket 1.
The Philippines’ fisheries director Asis Perez said the ban brought hard times to the local fishing sector. He also noted that the fishing ban was counterproductive for the Philippines as it forced fishing companies to harvest in its national waters, which is considered to be a spawning ground for various types of tuna, he said.
- Crossroads for the World’s Biggest Tuna Fishery (prnewswire.com)
- Greenpeace survey: More Canadian companies sourcing canned tuna responsibly (vancouversun.com)
- Transforming the tuna industry (greenpeace.org)
- Is European tinned-tuna giant Bolton the latest company to change its tuna? (greenpeace.org)
New video footage captured by a tuna industry whistleblower has been released by Greenpeace, which reveals the routine slaughter of other marine species, including whale sharks, rays and whales. The footage is shot onboard a tuna fishing vessel in the
Pacific which deploys fish aggregating devices, one of the most aggressive fishing operations used by the industry in the face of declining fish populations owing to overfishing.Warning: this footage contains images that some may find disturbing
Greenpeace video : http://gu.com/p/33ef8
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (uwtreasures.wordpress.com)
- WSJ: Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (junkscience.com)
- Greenpeace Misses the Boat with Grotesque Anti-Tuna Fishing Video (treehugger.com)
- Shocking Video Footage – The Truth About What’s in Your Tuna Can | AlterNet (habwwe.wordpress.com)
- Look at All this Amazing Sea Life Tuna Fishermen Kill as Bycatch (Video) (treehugger.com)
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (gcaptain.com)
- Greenpeace vs. the Tuna Sandwich (online.wsj.com)
- Greenseas to drop harmful tuna fishing (theage.com.au)
- Time to Boycott Tuna Again? (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)