Debate: Will You Eat the Last Bluefin Tuna?

It is now well known that stocks of the famed Northern bluefin tuna — known as kuro maguro or hon maguro in Japanese — are on the brink of collapse.

Still, this beast of the sea’s soft buttery flesh is delicious. The most prized cut, otoro, is from the fish’s fatty belly and is the jewel in the crown of the sashimi dining experience.

Paul Greenberg is author of Four Fish,  a book about the dominance of a few fish species across the globe. He, like many of us has succumbed to the tuna temptation against his better judgement.

The problem that he and others assert is that tuna is not whale. That is, overwhelmingly across the globe it is as culturally acceptable to eat bluefin tuna as it is culturally unacceptable to eat whale.

So what to do? Do we forgo one of life’s little pleasures in the name of the common good? And if we do, will that even make a difference?

“The new fish stories can be read as parables about technology. What was, once upon a time, a stable relationship between predator and prey was transformed by new ‘machinery’ into a deadly mismatch. This reading isn’t so much wrong as misleading. To paraphrase the old N.R.A. favorite, FADs don’t kill fish, people do.”

At present, the reality is that if we don’t eat the bluefin, some eager sushi diner anywhere on the globe will eat it anyway. Most likely, they will be from Japan, a country responsible for a huge 70-80% of global consumption. Even if the World Wildlife Fund for Nature succeeds in its newly-launched campaign to encourage Japanese consumers to join the fight to save the bluefin tuna, won’t it probably end up in the greedy hands of some mega-corporation anyway?

“Perhaps we will never come to feel about tuna the way we have come to feel about whales, but it is to this example we must look if we are to fix our tuna problem once and for all,” Greenberg laments.

On this week’s Debate 2.0 we ask, can humanity rescue the bluefin tuna? Would you be willing to give up eating it? Furthermore, would you encourage others to give it up also? If so, how?

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Debate 2.0: Will you eat the last bluefin tuna? by Mark Notaras is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


Mark Notaras was a writer/editor of Our World 2.0 for the United Nations University (UNU) Media Centre from 2009–2012. He is a former researcher in Peace and Security for the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP). He holds a Masters in International Affairs (Peace and Conflict Studies) from the Australian National University and the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) and in 2013 completed a Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Currently Mark works in Timor-Leste advising local NGOs on community agriculture and conflict prevention projects.