Bluefin tuna tastes good. Damn good. And due to its popularity as sushi, as well as its high commercial value and its ability to cross international boundaries, the bluefin tuna is being severely overfished and is at risk of extinction.
Since 1970, Atlantic bluefin tuna have declined by more than 80 percent due to overfishing. In the eastern Atlantic, the majority of the decline has occurred in the past ten years as they’ve been caught, without regulatory oversight, for fish farming. In the western Atlantic, halfway through a 20-year government “rebuilding program” for the severely depleted population, there are nearly 10 percent fewer fish than at the beginning of the program.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists two species of bluefin, the Atlantic and the southern, as endangered or critically endangered on its “Red List” of imperiled species. The Pacific bluefin tuna is not yet listed, but overfishing is now occurring, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. So lookout for it at your favorite sushi restaurant.
In spring 2010, bluefin tuna took a major hit at the height of its spawning season: Scientists estimate that BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed more than 20 percent of juvenile western Atlantic bluefin tuna that year. And that estimate doesn’t consider the expected long-term negative effects of the oil spill in the tuna’s breeding habitat.
Why hasn't the fish been put on the endangered species list? Because the world regulatory bodies are governed by countries and many, like Japan, aren't willing to do without it (The US did vote in favor of putting the bluefin on the endangered species list).
If you are concerned about this issue, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program recommends avoiding bluefin tuna -- sometimes called hon maguro or toro (tuna belly) at the supermarket and at restaurants -- altogether. You can also join the bluefin boycott by clicking on the link below.