Sushi: The Global Catch – a short history of bluefin tuna stock depletion

Thanks to Upwell for this piece on a new documentary about the global sushi obsession. The trailer kicks off with a distinctly Aussie-accented interviewee, which drives home the points even more for me – as a resident of the only area in my state (Victoria) where recreational fishing of Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) is still allowed (some would even say encouraged).

The estimate recreational catch from March to July 2011 is about 240 tonnes*: what we don’t hear much about is the illegal tuna catches that go to commercial markets. Recreational fishers in Victoria can land two SBT, yellowfin or big-eye on each outing – there is also oddly no minimum size listed on the Fisheries website.

Based on the rough guide of illegal fishing catch estimates, that tonnage could be as much or more than the legal recreational limit.

Anyway here’s the screed from Upwell’s latest newsletter:

We all know the story: bluefin tuna is big business. And the primary reason it’s big business is that sushi is big business. Prices for bluefin rise to fuel the demand, which increases the effort being placed into catching bluefin, which causes a decline in bluefin numbers, which ratchets up the price … and so on. A new movie called Sushi: The Global Catch, opening in limited distribution this month, “tells the story of how sushi went from being an esoteric delicacy to a global food staple over a few decades” and “makes a compelling case that [tuna fishing and farming] are environmentally unsustainable, depleting the bluefins to dangerous levels and impacting the overall ecosystem in which they participate.” We haven’t seen it yet, but we hear the real star of the show is Sustainable Sushi author and restaurateur Casson Trenor, whoaccording to NPR “passionately describes the power consumer habit plays in the problem and offers alternatives to tuna consumption in a sustainable sushi bar he jointly runs.”

*This estimate was taken from the results of a comprehensive research report by Fisheries Victoria on recreational fishing of SBT over a four-month period in 2011. In their words:

The estimated number of SBT caught and retained in Victoria for the March to July 2011 period was about 19,700, (± 2800 s.e.). It is estimated that a further 6900 (± 1500 s.e.) SBT were also caught and released in the same period.

The estimated total weight of tuna caught and retained by recreational anglers in Victoria was about 240 tonnes (± 31 s.e.). The estimated number of boat trips by recreational anglers in Victoria where SBT was targeted was about 6200 (± 800 s.e.).

The true recreational catch of SBT from Victoria will be higher than estimated because:

  • Data from moored vessels were not included
  • Data from fishers travelling by sea to Victoria from South Australia were not included
  • The use of maximum trailer count did not capture all completed fishing trips.

About oceanicexplorer

Posted on August 7, 2012, in activism, conservation, fishing, Great Ocean Road, Portland, research, science, sea life, Victoria, Warrnambool and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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