Single Pacific bluefin tuna sold for £½ million at auction, as stock nears extinction

The Guardian reports, 5th January 2017: A bluefin tuna has fetched 74.2m yen (£517,000) at the first auction of the year at Tsukiji market in Tokyo, amid warnings that decades of over-fishing by Japan and other countries is taking the species to the brink of extinction.

The 212kg fish, caught off the coast of Oma in northern Japan, was bought by Kiyomura, the operator of the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain, after its president, Kiyoshi Kimura, outbid rivals for the sixth year in a row.

The first auction of the year at Tsukiji always attracts high bids from restaurants hoping to turn the publicity associated with the event into a marketing opportunity. Kimura’s bid, which works out at 350,000 yen per kilogram, is the second highest since the market started keeping records in 1999. The 155.4m yen Kimura paid for a bluefin in 2013 is the highest bid ever recorded.

At the price he paid on Thursday, a single piece of fatty tuna sushi would cost about 25 times the 400 yen his dozens of restaurants usually charge for the same cut.

Kimura, whose bids have earned him the nickname “tuna king”, said the fish was “a bit expensive, but I am happy that I was able to successfully win at auction a tuna of good shape and size”. Kimura added he was looking forward to serving it at his restaurants. “I want everyone to taste this delicious tuna,” he said as he posed with his prize bluefin.

Conservationists said the publicity surrounding the auction risked overshadowing the plight of the Pacific bluefin tuna. They have called for a two-year moratorium on fishing to rescue the Pacific bluefin population, which is estimated to have plummeted by 97% from its historic high due to decades of overfishing.

Last month, 25 tuna-fishing nations plus the European Union agreed on the need for an urgent bluefin tuna recovery plan, but Japan is expected to resist drastic cuts in catch quotas or a moratorium to give stocks the opportunity to recover.

About 70% of Pacific bluefin are less than a year old when caught, and 95% are caught before they reach three years old — a practice that damages the species’ ability to reproduce.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission tightened international limits in 2015 as the species remained under threat, halving the catch of bluefin tuna under 30 kilograms from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is commonly served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro — a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly — can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.

The global popularity of Japanese food is fuelling an appetite for bluefin in other countries, including China.
 
Source: The Guardian, 5th January 2017. For the full details, see www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/05/bluefin-tuna-sells-for-500000-at-japan-auction-amid-overfishing-concerns
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/05/giant-tuna-fetches-500000-tokyos-famed-tsukiji-new-years-fish

 

MARINET observes: What kind of madness is this? A single fish sells for £½ million because it so rare and human beings want to go on eating it, and fishing authorities (from governments, regulators and conservation organisations) go on allowing it to be so. It is all so repellent that Marinet protests in the strongest terms at being involved, against its will, in this lunacy.

It reminds us of what was said by a whaler when asked why he still wanted to kill the last whale in the ocean. He said: if I do not, then someone else will, so it might as well be me.

We ask now whether the human race will take the same attitude to Bluefin tuna, closely followed by all the other tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore)?

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation reported on the Pacific Bluefin stock in its 2015 Tuna Stock Status Update, saying:

STOCK ASSESSMENT
A full stock assessment was carried out by the ISC in 2014 (ISC, 2014b). The results corroborated the status information from the previous (2012) assessment (Figure PO-8):
1. The stock is heavily over-fished, the biomass is near historically low levels and experiencing high exploitation rates. The spawning stock biomass was 26,324 metric tonnes and slightly higher than the 2010 estimate. None the less, the spawning stock biomass has been declining for over ten years and in 2012 it was estimated to be less than 6% of the un-fished level, and at or near the historically-lowest level.
2. Fishing mortality is estimated to be substantially higher than reference levels that are often used as proxies for FMSY (e.g., F in 2009-2011 is about 1.8 times greater than Fmax).

The Pacific bluefin catch is dominated by recruits (age 0) and juveniles (ages 1 to 3). Preliminary data indicate an unusually low catch of age-0 bluefin in 2012, while longline catch rates continue to decline. This may imply lower recruitment, which would adversely affect projected stock rebuilding and increase the risk of SB falling below its historical lowest level observed. In 2014, the ISC recommended further reductions in fishing mortality, especially for juvenile fish.

 

The reality now in the latest official report is that the Pacific Bluefin tuna stock is just 2.6% of its un-fished level, and that nearly all bluefin tuna being caught are aged 1 year [ref. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, 5th January 2017]. Bluefin tuna can live to 25 years or more, and become sexually mature between 4 to 14 years.

This means that the spawning stock and its reproductive capability are in near fatal crash condition.

Meanwhile governments, regulators and conservation organisations spend hours talking, hours writing reports [the 5th January 2017 report of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission numbers 298 pages] and money-men pay £½ million for their piece of “fish gold”.

In 2016 the ordinary man and woman told the political establishment in the USA and UK that they had enough of their so-called political wisdom because, in reality, it translated into madness. Does the situation here need to be translated — surely it is obvious that the governance of our fisheries in the Pacific, in the Atlantic, indeed around the whole globe, is controlled by the principles of madness.

Its time for change, and it is long overdue.

 


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