Marine Ecologist, Oregon State University; Global Managing Director, Oceans, The Nature Conservancy
Bluefin tuna are powerful ocean predators, growing up to twice the size of a lion and faster than a gazelle. There’s just one fatal flaw in their torpedo-like design: Their flesh is delicious to humans and worth a lot of money, creating a market demand that has led to a history of rampant overfishing.
In the case of Pacific bluefin, weak international regulations have failed to stem the toll. Now, where every 100 fish once thrived, fewer than three remain. Without rapid, coordinated action by the major fishing nations, Pacific bluefin tuna face commercial extinction, becoming too rare to catch profitably. A meeting of those countries and other concerned parties starting December 5 in Fiji may prove critical to stemming the decline.
Humans are deeply connected to the global ocean, which covers more than two-thirds of the planet. Disruptions to the marine environment, from collapsing food webs to ocean acidification, can pose threats to our own survival. The severe overfishing of this apex predator critical to the marine food web not only poses an immediate challenge to international fisheries managers but also raises some larger questions for all of us: How do we live within our means and feed a growing population? How can we live in harmony with the rest of life on earth? And how will our descendants inherit an environment that can sustain them?