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Tuna’s End
July 13, 2010 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Tuna’s End Adapted from the book "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" for the New York Times. A pretty bleak look at the state of world wide tuna fishing.
posted by chunking express (55 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I stopped eating tuna recently and I encourage everyone to do the same.
posted by kuatto at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I really need to do that. Frankly, I think most of the world's tuna is consumed by me.
posted by brundlefly at 10:11 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


If not for the survival of tuna, at least refrain eating it to avoid excessive mercury intake. Chicken of the land is still plentiful and sustainable.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:13 AM on July 13, 2010


The book could use a catchier title. Something like Doomed by Deliciousness.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Tilapia would do well as a canned fish. People go on and on about its sustainability, so it seems like it might be a good replacement.
posted by boo_radley at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2010


Don't worry - A member of Congress has you covered.

Last night, Stephen Colbert reported that researchers from the university want to rename Asian carp, changing it to “Kentucky Tuna.” They hope the name change will be the public relations bump Asian carp needs.



Chicken of the land is still plentiful and sustainable.


From: http://www.truthorfables.net/mad_cow_disease.htm

But that's not the only reason for our distrust. Back in southern Alabama we visited a chicken farmer because we were curious why he left the lights on in his huge coops late into the night. He told us that was so the chickens would sleep less, eat more, and grow faster.

He also told us how sometimes some of his cooped-up chicks die because of loud noises, like the noise of the motor that brings their food into the chicken houses. We wondered if their nerves being that shot meant that they weren't all that healthy.

But that wasn't as bad as what he told us when we asked him what was in the feed. Antiobiotics? Hormones? "Arsenic," he said. "It stimulates their appetites so that they eat more and grow faster."

(sounds like abuse of animals - but its OK cuz you have "plentiful and sustainable" chickens.)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2010


A good resource about fish sustainability, providing a comprehensive list of fish to avoid and prefer, can be found at Sustainable Sushi.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2010


Let's not forget, bluefin tuna only spawn in two places that we know of... the Mediterranean, and the Gulf Of Mexico. Well, we're not even sure they CAN spawn in the Gulf anymore, so I'm not sure what the future is for these fish, but I doubt it's very bright.

I hate humans sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 10:23 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> (sounds like abuse of animals - but its OK cuz you have "plentiful and sustainable" chickens.)

Then don't buy factory chicken--spend a bit more for higher quality meat produced ethically (and eat less).
posted by Burhanistan at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Tilapia would do well as a canned fish. People go on and on about its sustainability, so it seems like it might be a good replacement.

Tilapia is a white fish, not as oily and tasty like tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel and other canned fish. Canned tilapia might need some kind of artificial flavoring, I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:26 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The ICCAT mentioned in the article is so horribly ineffective at its stated objectives that it's sometimes referred to as the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna.
posted by daveje at 10:26 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I stopped eating tuna recently and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Not all tuna is the same. Albacore tuna troll- and pole-fished in the US and Canadian Pacific is relatively low in mercury and sustainably fished. (This is not the Chicken of the Sea albacore you find for $1 in US grocery stores; that's longline fished in Southeast Asia and bad for you and the environment.)

I buy American Tuna, which costs $5 a can at Whole Foods. Sustainability is expensive. You can also find fresh albacore during the summer. It's in season from July-September, and especially available on the West Coast. It's also delicious.
posted by purpleclover at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2010


Can't we just.. make tuna evolve to taste foul or something? A little gene here, some modding there.. TA-DA, tastes like celery.
posted by pyrex at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2010


Can't we just.. make tuna evolve to taste foul or something? A little gene here, some modding there.. TA-DA, tastes like celery.

Well I've never tasted crude oil before, so can't say if its foul...but from the looks of it, we are trying our best.
posted by samsara at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2010




For those in the US, Monterey Bay Aquarium has handy Seafood Watch pocket guides, divided by region. They also have a sushi guide (PDF).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


the Chicken of the Sea albacore you find for $1 in US grocery stores

Where are you finding canned albacore for $1 a can? That's the price for the stinky 'Chunk Light' in most stores these days.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2010


I tend to think sustainability drives are just window dressing, and that the best thing to do is to stop eating wild fish (and reform abuses/problems of farming fish). But no one seems to give a crap about trying that.

So hey, have fun emptying out the oceans and streams. At least then you won't have to worry about pollution killing them off.
posted by emjaybee at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to put a post together around this article for the past week or so. I'll just add the other couple links I was going to use. The Monterey Bay guide to sustainable seafood has already been mentioned above.

The other links I was going to use:

Another great article that I was going to use in conjunction with the NYTimes article. When I first read the NYTimes one last week I was reminded of this one.

Tunas are pretty neat creatures.

A photo gallery following the steps of Tuna fishing.

A short article about Tuna migration.

Ever since I read that National Geographic article a few years back, I have been paying more attention to Tuna. I had no idea what they looked like in the wild until then, and I was surprised with how beautiful they are. They're majestic and interesting animals that deserve more respect. I truly hope they don't go extinct, but both the NYTimes article and the National Geographic article make it sound like it's extremely difficult to regulate their fishing due to their range. I just hope enough people become aware of the issue and that enough can change before it becomes too late.
posted by wander at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


This article made me both sad and hungry. Is the tuna in the article the same tuna they catch in Oma?
posted by betweenthebars at 10:53 AM on July 13, 2010


> So hey, have fun emptying out the oceans and streams. At least then you won't have to worry about pollution killing them off.

Silliness of the logic aside, I think this is probably a back-of-mind justification that many people have nowadays for consuming lots of higher end fish.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:55 AM on July 13, 2010


Can't we just.. make tuna evolve to taste foul or something? A little gene here, some modding there.. TA-DA, tastes like celery.

You just made tuna taste a lot more delicious to this reader.
posted by explosion at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2010


I stopped eating fish a little over a year ago because of this.
posted by palacewalls at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The book could use a catchier title. Something like Doomed by Deliciousness.

May I suggest: "Che Mala Fortuna"
posted by chavenet at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, no, the book cover features a fisherman, kneeling over the tombstone of the last tuna, with the book's title, Sorry, Charlie: Tuna Extinction 1950-2015 engraved upon it.
posted by adipocere at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2010


There is an international effort underway to protect areas of the ocean that lay are outside EEZs. It's still in preliminary stages, having begun last summer, but hopefully this will move more rapidly than is typical with these sorts of things. Momentum is good right now. (disclosure: I help code for the project, and indeed I'm sitting a few feet from one of the researchers mentioned in the NYT article.)
posted by bendybendy at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love me some tuna. Fatty tuna belly is delicious, and while I don't eat it often it's pretty ubiquitous at sushi places. Negitoro is typically cheap, too--I wonder if prices were raised significantly demand would go down?

Also, WTF Greenpeace?

“Bluefin tuna

Is an environmentally threatened species

Please ask your server for an alternative.”


is printed on the menu, and Greenpeace's response is:

“Despite the assurances that you take these issues seriously and that you want Nobu to be a leader in this field, you have essentially tried to abdicate responsibility by suggesting that it is down to your customers to decide if they want to eat an endangered species.”


How is it not down to the customers? He's doing something completely legal as well as taking steps to advise his customers that the fish is threatened. On his menu. At his sushi restaurant. Where people expect to find tuna, and may be coming specifically for it, because it's delicious, and he's suggesting to them they should try something else. I'm tempted to kick the next Greenpeace canvasser I walk past in the junk for stuff like this.

Also, the whole "it's only been served as sushi for 200 years so it's not a cultural thing" in that article argument is pretty dumb; the hamburger is pretty much 200 years old, if that, and tell me that's not a major part of American food culture at this point.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


A sobering new report warns that the oceans face a "fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation" not seen in millions of years as greenhouse gases and climate change already have affected temperature, acidity, sea and oxygen levels, the food chain and possibly major currents that could alter global weather.

When that happens, watch the wingnut/industrial complex go nuts denying that it's happening or that it has anything to do with human activity.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2010


When that happens, watch the wingnut/industrial complex go nuts denying that it's happening or that it has anything to do with human activity.

Krill, baby, krill!
posted by Joe Beese at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Canned tilapia might need some kind of artificial flavoring, I think.

All tilapia needs some kind of artificial flavoring. In its natural state it tastes like nothing at all. If you're thinking about tilapia, why not just use extra-firm tofu? It's the same thing, and the tofu's probably cheaper.

Personally, I eat cod that I caught myself with a rod and reel.
posted by rusty at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2010


Although it's changing slowly, the whole eating fish is OK and eating meat is bad thing really pisses me off. OK, so industrialised meat farming is fucked; corrupt, unhealthy, dangerous and cruel (and that's just for the humans) but eating cows is not destroying a natural ecosystem that we cannot replace once it's gone.

While I'm all for sustainability the fact that I don't eat a tin of tuna is not going to stop countries like Japan and China raping the fuck out of every species in the sea. I watched The Cove the other day and read the few month-old thread on it here where a lot of people were saying "we do it to cows, what's wrong with doing it to dolphins?". What's wrong is that if you keep doing to dolphins it for long enough THERE WON'T BE ANY LEFT.

Like the Passenger Pigeon, like North Atlantic Cod, like the Northern Right Whale, like Bluefin Tuna. We just keep on killin', saying why not, there's millions of 'em? There may be, but you kill 1 million a year and it doesn't take long for millions to become none.

We just don't get it. I'm with hippybear. Sometimes I hate humans.
posted by jontyjago at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I stopped eating tuna recently and I encourage everyone to do the same.

This is crazy talk. Get 'em while they're still here. You not eating them will do nothing, and even you loudly advocating and getting all your friends to not eat them is farts in the wind.

The only way the tuna aren't totally fucked is through concerted and heavily regulated / enforced international action. Yeah, I know, good luck on that.

I have no qualms at all about eating tuna, because regardless of what I do WE are fucking this place beyond repair. Your grandchildren will be dying on the surface or digging underground, and let me assure you they will not sing the praises of their tuna-friendly grandparent!
posted by Meatbomb at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instead, they'll say "What was tuna?"
posted by Meatbomb at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2010


OK, so industrialised meat farming is fucked; corrupt, unhealthy, dangerous and cruel (and that's just for the humans) but eating cows is not destroying a natural ecosystem that we cannot replace once it's gone.

O RLY?
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2010


One thing I'm having trouble wrapping my head around is that the oceans occupy 310 million cubic miles. That's enough to bury the United States in a sea 81 miles deep. Is it really possible to fish out all of a given species in a volume of that magnitude? Are there basins relatively untouched by fishing operations, like between the Kerguelen Islands and Antarctica? I'm not proposing overfishing isn't an issue and I realize some species are highly localized, but the ocean is unbelievably vast and I'm having a hard time picturing how a fleet can get to every square mile of a basin, especially in the more remote areas.
posted by crapmatic at 1:33 PM on July 13, 2010


crapmatic: most of the ocean is, as far as anyone knows, more or less empty of edible fish. The fish live where they can eat, and the food chain ultimately rests on sunlight, so the big yummy fish live within range of sunlight, which is not that deep.

Basically, all species are highly localized, in a relatively few locations.
posted by rusty at 1:45 PM on July 13, 2010


crapmatic: Well, there are species of whales which are now extinct because we killed them all. And I've seen photo essays which show the relative sizes of fish caught 3 or 4 generations ago compared to examples of the same species which are caught today, and we've obviously decimated the older, mature fish populations of many species.

Plus, a fleet doesn't have to get to every square mile of a basin to fish it out. Fish aren't plants -- they move around within defined zones and migration areas, and all it takes is for a fleet to keep hitting the same area repeatedly over many years to have a great chance of doing severe harm to a population living within that basin.
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on July 13, 2010


But just think of the investment opportunities!
posted by stargell at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2010


*
posted by IndigoJones at 2:31 PM on July 13, 2010


Everytime I buy tuna, I tell my daughter that we really should be paying $5 a can not $1.49 and that soon there won't be any tuna to eat anymore. It always makes people around me smile and nod in agreement, and then they also buy the tuna.
posted by Vindaloo at 2:37 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Towards the end of the article...

But what we can perhaps be persuaded to feel, viscerally, is that industrial fishing as it is practiced today against the bluefin and indeed against all the world’s great fish, the very tigers and lions of our era, is an act unbefitting our sentience.


Yeah, right, and then maybe we'll start doing as good of a job preserving "the world's great fish" as we've done saving tigers. There is absolutely zero real, pragmatic possibility any more that we will hold onto what little is left of the ecology the industrial age inherited. I think those who suggest we will render the world uninhabitable underestimate the tenaciousness of life, including human life, but I see not a shred of evidence that we have the capacity to turn away from the course we've set: to cover the earth and subsequently choke on our own wastes.
posted by nanojath at 2:39 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


...but I see not a shred of evidence that we have the capacity to turn away from the course we've set: to cover the earth and subsequently choke on our own wastes.

I agree, but it's a shame we have to comprehensively fuck up so much other lovely stuff on our path to self-destruction. Whenever a new species is discovered I can only shake my head in sorrow, because in ten years that will just be something else we have lost.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:25 PM on July 13, 2010


Not specifically about tuna: TED Talk and paper (pdf) on marine life extinction rates by Jeremy Jackson (check page 2 for a table detailing the decline rate for various species).

Shifting baselines.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:44 PM on July 13, 2010


I'm also disappointed that the one species currently thriving while we make a terrible mess of our oceans is jellyfish. I ate some jellyfish for the first time at a Chinese wedding this year. No sir, it ain't tuna. In fact, I could go the rest of my life without ever eating jellyfish again.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:04 PM on July 13, 2010


Kirk Grim: I ate some jellyfish

Let me point out where your plan went all wrong…
posted by paisley henosis at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2010


When I read this article, I thought about the Mark Kurlansky book about cod and a similar book I read about caviar (discussing sturgeon issues). Switching from tuna to another fish probably isn't going to help. The problem is there are too many people eating too many fish, she said guiltily, having had sushi rolls from a sushi cart for lunch.
posted by immlass at 4:29 PM on July 13, 2010


this is a great book about trying to eat more sustainably when it comes to seafood.
posted by smoke at 5:07 PM on July 13, 2010


Is there some way these fishing fleets could be hired to fish for the horrible mass of plastic garbage that circulates the oceans instead of tuna?
posted by MrFish at 9:29 PM on July 13, 2010


No, the plastic is mostly broken down to tiny fragments and its concentration is six times higher than plankton's. According to Capt. Charles Moore:
I am often asked why we can’t vacuum up the particles. In fact, it would be more difficult than vacuuming up every square inch of the entire United States, it’s larger and the fragments are mixed below the surface down to at least 30 meters. Also, untold numbers of organisms would be destroyed in the process.
His 2009 TED Talk is also worth watching.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:56 AM on July 14, 2010


Oops, that quote is from here (pdf).
posted by Bangaioh at 2:59 AM on July 14, 2010


How is it not down to the customers? He's doing something completely legal as well as taking steps to advise his customers that the fish is threatened. On his menu. At his sushi restaurant. Where people expect to find tuna, and may be coming specifically for it, because it's delicious, and he's suggesting to them they should try something else. I'm tempted to kick the next Greenpeace canvasser I walk past in the junk for stuff like this.

Just because something is not illegal (yet) does not mean it is the right thing to do. If Nobu, an internationally known restaurant brand, acted in an environmentally conscientious way that would go some way to raising the profile of this issue. Bluefin tuna should not be on the menu for human beings. Indeed, as the fish sustainability lists show, the vast majority of popular eating fish are endangered and should not be eaten. As we have the ability to choose what we eat we have a responsibility to do so in a sustainable way.

If Nobu converted their entire menu to sustainable stock, and contributed to funding marine conservation areas to offset the damage that they have already contributed to, I would be able to enjoy their food as it would be delicious. Until they do so, their food will not be delicious as it will be tainted with hubris and willful ignorance, which leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
posted by asok at 3:13 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would suggest it's not willful ignorance if they're telling you it's threatened, and everything you suggest is ultimately a choice of the individual customer.
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2010


I tried this place when in Seattle and marveled at how delicious sustainable sushi could be. It's hard to eat any kind of "regular" seafood now knowing that such an option exists.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:03 AM on July 14, 2010


I ate there last night, and it was amazing.

Having read the article and comments, I feel despair.

I love tuna. So, in rough order:
- I should at least buy certain kinds of tuna.
- But I'd be better off to not eat tuna and look to different, generally smaller sustainable
- Better still would be to not eat fish at all
- None of which may help the oceans in the slightest
- We're all doomed

I wish there was more we could do than hope future generations discover how to cook jellyfish.
posted by dmz at 4:03 PM on July 17, 2010




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