This week’s 60 Minutes report on the ecological, social, and economic impacts of the growing global demand for sushi showed how a natural resource like bluefin tuna can go from being sustainably caught and managed for centuries to being overfished, its population put at risk of extinction, within decades–all because it’s something people like to eat. As correspondent Bob Simon reports, industrial fishing boats work with spotter planes that fly above the Mediterranean looking for schools of migratory bluefin. The boats, using a type of gear called purse seines, can catch up to 3,000 fish with each cast of the net. These fish are typically frozen at sea and held in deep freeze until they’re sold and shipped all over the world, winding up in grocery store sushi or casual sushi joints. Watch the video when you visit the CBS site.
On his blog, Blue Ocean Institute founder Carl Safina writes that “archeological evidence shows that people have been fishing bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean for 9,000 years.” Within the past 40 years, bluefin stocks have collapsed all over the world, and according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, populations of Atlantic tuna have declined by 90% since the 1970’s. And they’re taking fishermen’s livelihoods with them. While the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas works to figure out the best policy for restoring and managing the bluefin populations, concerned chefs can continue educating their customers, asking questions of their purveyors, and diversifying demand for underutilized seafood species, like this.