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Jun 27, 2010 04:10 PM

Tuna’s End

"Global seafood consumption has increased consistently to the point where we now remove more wild fish and shellfish from the oceans every year than the weight of the human population of China."

Looks like our needs to sustain our way of life are wreaking havoc on the planet.


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  1. They can pry my blue-rare sesame-crusted tuna steaks out of my cold dead hands.

    28 Replies
    1. re: ljamunds

      Isn't that the attitude that is hastening their extinction?

      1. re: ljamunds

        Demise-wise, there's a good chance the blue fin will beat you to the punch, Charlton. You'll be lucky to have farmed fish stix in your dead paws.

          1. re: jwernimo

            To Veggo and jwernimo,

            Why so judgmental about some other person's food choices?

            Your moral disapprobation towards ljamunds presumes that extinction is a bad thing. Why? Have you ever considered that extinction is just part of the natural process of nature? Neither good, nor bad.

            Strong, amazing (and quite dominant) creatures like dinosaurs are no longer with us. I certainly don't find the absence of dinosaurs roaming the interstate to be necessarily a bad thing.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Easy for you to say, since you never tasted a brontosaurus burger, but many seafood lovers are concerned about the rapid depletion of fish populations.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Yes, extinction is part of the natural order of things. But modern humans have such a dramatic impact on the planetary ecosystem that extinctions are occurring at a significantly accelerated rate. As ostensibly sentient creatures, we have an obligation to consider our impact on the species with which we share the planet.

                Whether our irresponsibility will ultimately jeopardize our ability to survive on Earth or just makes it a poorer place to live may be open for discussion. But very few people would agree with the notion that any species that gets in our way (or on our dinner plate) should simply be wiped out.

                The stocks of fish that my kids can catch are much poorer than those that were in the rivers and oceans when I was their age. We didn't even have a salmon season the last few years here in California. At the rate we're going, I wonder whether my fantasy of teaching my grandkids to fish will ever come true.

                Bluefin tuna aren't disappearing because they are poorly suited to their environment. They are disappearing because humans refuse to limit harvests to responsible levels. Is it "immoral" to deprive future generations of the opportunity to see, catch, and taste these magnificent creatures? I say yes.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Hmmm. For a "human" take on what the sharp end of extinction looks like, read Jared Diamond's "Collapse." Ipsedixit would have fit right in with the Easter Island logging crew that felled the last tree--what a rush!

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    I favor see, catch, and release.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      For species from wild trout to sturgeon, I agree that catch and release is the only acceptable way to fish. I've let far more fish go than I've ever kept.

                      But when a limited harvest is sustainable, I'm all for releasing them into a skillet. And when a non-native species is out-competing (or eating) local fish to the point that their population is threatened, keeping your catch is a net positive.

                      Darn, striped bass for dinner again?

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    Strong, amazing dinosaurs were wiped out by a cataclysmic meteor strike near Mexico 65 million years ago that had nothing to do with natural selection.
                    If the heartless gluttons who feast on endangered species with eyes and mouths wide open were to roam the interstates instead, I might be tempted to do more driving.

                    1. re: Veggo


                      Maybe it is completely wrong and unethical to eat endangered species, or to hunt and kill and eat a species to extinction.

                      But wherever you fall on that spectrum, is the appropriate forum to vet a fellow chowhound's food choices as filtered through a particular moral or ethical prism?

                      After all, the Chowhound manifesto is that "Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice."

                      The manifesto, it should be noted, is most importantly not about seeking out "optimal deliciousness" but with one eye focused on environmental, social or ethical dynamics. For lack of a better analogy, this is not a PETA meets Alice Waters confab.

                      Again, I am not saying whether eating endangered species is right or wrong, I am just saying that this particular forum is not the place to vet such issues, much less bash another poster for a practice deemed ethically or morally "bad" by others. A chowhound, as defined by the manifesto, is not concerned with such obligations, only "optimal deliciousness".

                      Bash a chowhound for eating Bluefin tuna steaks because you think such foodstuffs don't taste very good, not because you think it is morally or ethically bad.


                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        The fact that this thread exists, to me, argues that CH finds it an appropriate topic.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          "Again, I am not saying whether eating endangered species is right or wrong"

                          If you can't even muster an opinion on whether it's OK to eat endangered species, I could not care less about your opinion on whether this is the proper forum to discuss it.

                          "Chowhounds know where the good stuff is"

                          Bluefin is the good stuff, it's in the ocean. It would be nice if the next generation of Chowhounds are able to taste its "optimal deliciousness". It's been proven at this point that we can't rely on the fishermen, or the governments who regulate them, to rein themselves in. The only way to prevent the bluefin's extinction is to stop eating them until their stocks recover. It may be too late even for that.

                          1. re: Buckethead

                            Folks, let's try to keep this discussion focused on the subject, rather on meta-discussion of whether the subject is even worthy of discussion.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            ipsedixit, that's a ludicrous limitation on what we, as "Chowhounds," should talk about. Responsible eating doesn't necessarily have to conjure up visions of Alice Waters and PETA. We all partake in responsible eating. If someone started a thread about cannibalism, are you suggesting it would be wrong to bash them on a moral stance unless we had tried eating human flesh? What about sneaking into a zoo to kill and eat an endangered tiger?

                            "Gosh, you know, it really is delicious, so I guess I can't argue with that."

                            No, just as we have the responsibility to report about the quality of ingredients, we also have the responsibility to help ensure that others will be free to use those ingredients in the future.

                            I find absolutely nothing romantic or desirable about senseless eating.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              That's why we have laws like the Endangered Species Act. Those who lack the foresight to see a problem with eating endangered species can have their menu chosen for them. Free housing is provided, too.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Sorry, ipsedixit, but did you read the NYT magazine piece? You're not on any moral high ground here. You're simply wanting it both ways, i.e., "OK for me to debunk it but not OK for you to disagree with me." That's just a tad disingenuous. Greenberg's article makes some of the most cogent biological, economic, and environmental arguments I've seen to lay off eating a wild species

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Do you have any real points to make?

                            2. re: ljamunds

                              Nothing wrong with eating tuna steaks. Just make sure they're yellowfin (preferably troll-caught). While overexploitation of the oceans is a global problem, it's the idiots who insist on decimating the bluefin population that are the worst offenders.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I'm curious as to how albacore tuna, which has been the mainstay of canned tuna for decades, has managed to remain a sustainable species.

                                1. re: Rmis32

                                  Mmmm, albacore. Currently waiting for 59-degree water to move within 50 miles of shore at the same time the weather conditions are calm. Hello, Mr. Longfin...

                                  It's just a more resilient population. The easiest albacore to catch are schools of sub-adults that swim all over the globe, eating voraciously from bait balls near the surface. The breeding stock, on the other hand, tends to live deep, stay put, and crank out copious quantities of offspring.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    Also, albacore live, reproduce, and die in about 12 years. Bluefin live up to 30 years, and females lay eggs in proportion to their size. The average bluefin is half the size/weight of 40 years ago. They cannot avoid the mistake of munching on a hooked bait 30 years in a row. There are simply too many japanese fishing boats scavenging the seas.
                                    Critters low on the food chain that "everybody eats", e.g. quail, rabbits, and baitfish, are prolific during their short life and nevertheless maintain their numbers against long odds. The assault on bluefins is sudden and unnatural. Farming bluefins is nothing more than fattening up juveniles to fetch more money. They cannot be farmed beyond adolescence.

                              2. re: ljamunds

                                I'm confused. Are you saying that you don't care about the potential extinction of a species?

                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                    That poster appears to have "left the building."

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      In hindsight I wonder if it was a tongue and cheek response. Although I'm sure there are plenty of people who feel the same way. (I know there are because my SIL is one of them and she's the 'smart' SIL!)

                                  2. This has been the case for a while now with many fish species. I don't eat bluefin anymore unless it's Kindai (farmed), which is rare. To make matters worse, the bluefin only has two big spawning grounds, and one of them is in the now oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico.

                                    1. I've no idea what the answer to this question is and I get the feeling it'd take a while to find out. So, I decided to just ask:

                                      How long have people been saying that the Bluefin Tuna is going to be gone any minute now?

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: ediblover

                                        No one said "any minute now". The extinction of the bluefin is more like watching a train wreck about to happen in super slow motion, as some people watch and don't care, others are powerless, still others encourage the engineer to go full throttle.
                                        The start was tell-tale signs a decade or more ago: smaller catches, and lower average weights. Conclusion: bluefin breeding stock is rapidly depleting. Reaction in Japan: get it while you can, price be damned. Inevitable consequence? Duuuh.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          I didn't mean it literally. The point I was getting at is that, to me it seems like people have been screaming about the decline of the bluefin for a long time now. We're talking about something big and with a large "home" aren't we? That is, they're not the type to stick around in one small area. So... Two questions.

                                          1. How accurate is the count? Seems to me that there's a great margin of error.
                                          2. Without an accurate count, how can you arrive at any conclusion?

                                          You can't make a good numbers argument unless you have good numbers. Rough estimates result in rougher answers. Is it in decline? Obviously, since it has a voracious predator in man. Is it that bad? Can't say. Let's see some solid numbers. I doubt anyone has them.

                                          1. re: ediblover

                                            Maybe Sea Web is a good place to search around for the numbers.They do their home work before they publish,trying to keep things in everyday terms for a wide audience.


                                            volumes of information about The Gulf,Sharks,Tuna etc without using scare tactics

                                            1. re: ediblover

                                              Although the bluefin tuna has been a "Species of Concern" for a number of years

                                              "On May 27, 2011, after an extensive scientific review, NOAA announced that Atlantic bluefin tuna currently do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act." The NOAA is National Administration of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and under their Fisheries Service department various species are continually monitored. The NOAA will revisit their decision in 2013. However, the bluefin tuna continues to be listed as a Species of Concern, and for both sportsfishers and commercial fisheries there are prohibitions and penalties.


                                              Additional information re the number of Atlantic bluefin tuna in the ocean (Biomass) and Landings... This explains the method for counting the number of bluefins in any given area.


                                              ETA: Bluefin tuna regulations...

                                              1. re: ediblover

                                                Hint: just because you don't understand something doesn't mean that no one else does.

                                                1. re: Buckethead

                                                  Then help me understand - Tell me the validity of the numbers. How is the data collected and what is the error % and what method was used to determine that number?

                                                  There are two questions I'm asking here:

                                                  1. Since how far back have the doom/gloom been predicted for the bluefin?

                                                  2. How is the data for their population being collected, what is the error range for that data and what method was used to come up with that number?

                                                  Let's see some answers. Oh, there's also a third one I have:

                                                  3. So, what? Take the bluefin out of the equation. What great impact, if any, does that have on the ecosystem? Does it filter the waters in any way? Does it eat a large number of pests/creatures in the water that other species don't?

                                                  Take the bee out of the equation and we've got a huge problem. Bats keep insects under control. Oysters and other shellfish clean the water. Bluefins do what, exactly?

                                                  So, let's have some real answers instead of some passive-aggressive statement.

                                                  1. re: ediblover

                                                    One theory out there is the natural cycle of mercury in flesh.How much lodging in the fish nearing the top of the food chain keeps increasing,perhaps because the food chain keeps narrowing.

                                                    Not intending to offend,if I have I apologize in advance.Gio and I have both offered solid further reading that answers many questions.

                                                    1. re: ediblover

                                                      The content and tone of your questions makes me wonder if you're actually interested in "real answers", since everything you're asking is easily found with Google. But here are a few:

                                                      "1. Since how far back have the doom/gloom been predicted for the bluefin?"

                                                      It doesn't matter. Perhaps you can explain why you think it does. If I told you 40 years ago that bluefin tuna (or whatever, it doesn't have to be tuna in this example) would be extinct as of today, and you look around and they are merely 90% gone, that doesn't prove that it's not a problem.

                                                      "2. How is the data for their population being collected, what is the error range for that data and what method was used to come up with that number?"

                                                      Google it:







                                                      "Bluefins do what, exactly?"

                                                      Well for one thing, they're delicious. I'd hope the average person on CH is not so selfish that they'd want to deny future generations the opportunity to eat bluefin. They're also near the top of the ocean food chain, so they keep prey populations in check.

                                                  2. re: ediblover

                                                    There is one thing in favor of the bluefin, working against extinction. Carl Safina pointed out that for marine species, there comes a point, before extinction, where there it is so rare that there is no money to be had in catching them. At that point, while the species may be commercially extinct, it will still have living members. When the market collapses and disappears, the fish have a chance for recovery. Still, this is not exactly a rosy scenario, and by all means, there has to be tighter restrictions on their harvest. Ideally, it would be great to have a global moratorium for at least one full year. Won't happen though. And for those who say extinction is "natural", well just a decline in keystone species- not extinction- is enough to alter entire ecosystems. Look at Canada and Maine- lobsters are the dominant animal. There is no longer any predation from cod and haddock. Great for lobsterman and lobster lovers like myself. But what happens to those communities if a disease wipes out the population, like it did in LI Sound?

                                                  3. re: Veggo

                                                    Unfortunately also what they eat is also.Over harvesting of their diet only makes recovery that much tougher,longer and less likely.

                                                2. What are the statistics?... 99.999999% of all species that have ever existed are extinct... Do I have my numbers wrong?

                                                  Bluefin Too-NA is fantastic.... Should I enjoy Tilapia that is raised in a toilet just so my kids can have Tuna?

                                                  I will order my Tuna and enjoy it... I'll leave my kids solid gold as their inheritance... It'll do them a hell of a lot more good than a loin of Tuna.

                                                  Get your goddamn priorities in line.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: UncleRemus

                                                    If everyone had this same mindset in 200 years everyone will be left eating mass-scale farmed corn and soy products.

                                                    1. re: UncleRemus

                                                      >>What are the statistics?... 99.999999% of all species that have ever existed are extinct... Do I have my numbers wrong?<<

                                                      You forgot the timeline - over billions of years. Effects of humans on species is at a far more accelerated pace - decades.

                                                      >>Get your goddamn priorities in line.<< Please read.