Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Something's Fishy in the Mediterranean

While this post doesn’t fall squarely into the vegan realm, it will hopefully cause any of my faithful (and even those less so…) readers to think twice about their next sushi order. Last week I attended a showing of this documentary, Looting the Sea, put on by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ). This short film attempts to uncover the corruption and lack of oversight in the Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery. It was really eye-opening and disturbing, particularly in that a supposedly regulated industry could in actuality face such severe declines in the tuna population that it is as if there were no rules in place at all!

Atlantic bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean have declined in population size by 75% in the past 50 years. As a top predator, it is prized for its rich meat, but it also has a very long life-history - meaning, these swimmers take a long time to mature and live to be old. For these reasons, bluefin tuna is particularly susceptible to exploitation. Following suit, the size of tunas caught has dropped dramatically, indicating that all the big guys have been fished out.

Sadly, I am not quite sure what an individual can do about this, except to not consume bluefin tuna. Supposed catch limits and required documentation face steep barriers between lax enforcement and indiscriminant buyers. According to the documentary, at least 1/3 of the bluefin tuna harvest in the Mediterranean is illegal. Tuna is the hot button issue on the street these days. The FAO also recently put out a report on the state of the tuna industry, acknowledging the need for more efforts to sustainable management of the fishery… albeit in a much less politically-charge and abrasive way than ICIJ.

This week and next, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) convenes its annual meeting. There is a lot riding on this gathering in terms of implementing and enforcing strict regulations. Keep an eye out for any major decisions on this front...I know I will.

Latest developments on the ICCAT meeting...not looking good for lower quotas and more stringent regulation.

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