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Day Six: Bluefun Tuna

Let’s begin: Today is day six of the “Fish are Friends” pledge.  The fish that will tempt me the most over the next few months is the delectable bluefin tuna.

FACTS

  • That $14 piece of toro on your plate may actually be one of three species: Atlantic bluefin, Pacific bluefin or southern bluefin.
  • All populations of bluefin tuna are overfished, which means they are caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce.
  • Most studies agree that over 80% of the bluefin population has disappeared over the past 40 years.
  • Despite calls to reduce catch limits, scientific recommendations are repeatedly ignored. Fisheries management institutions tend to focus debate on “how much overfishing to allow rather than how to effectively end it.”
  • In May of 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA) declined to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), despite widespread scientific consensus that their survival as a species is threatened.
  • Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) is listed as critically endangered.
  • The tuna fishery often catches sharks, rays and other fish as bycatch.
  • Due to absurd demand for bluefin in high end sushi markets, the occurrence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has skyrocketed.
  • In November, fishermen off Nova Scotia killed a thousand pound bluefin, which will sell for over $30,000 US and produce nearly 20,000 pieces of sushi. Sylvia Earle compares the consumption of bluefin tuna to dining on snow leopards or pandas.
  • One of only two confirmed total spawning locations, the Gulf of Mexico, was recently polluted by 210 million gallons of oil after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Hopefully, you’ll keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted by that amazing sashimi lunch special…

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Fish are Friends Pledge

"I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food."

“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”

On December 7, I pledged to help raise awareness for my favorite underwater friends by not eating fish for the next 90 days (and hopefully the next 90 days after that).  The inspiration behind the new diet was my rediscovery of Sylvia Earle’s The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One.  (Let’s be honest, I was also motivated by the squad of fish-addicted sharks in Finding Nemo…)

Not only do I adore the taste and texture of fish, I relish in the multitude of health benefits associated with their consumption.  Generally, fish are low in calories and ‘bad’ fat content yet high in Omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  For years, I have avoided species such as sea bass and grouper and I have become quite familiar with the gentle teasing and mocking from those who find my actions futile.  (Friend: “Ah yes, Brittany will have the filet of baby grouper, please.”)

Expanding these restrictions to all species will be the most challenging lifestyle change I’ve ever tackled.  As a pessimistic environmentalist, I highly doubt my choice will in any way affect society’s demand for fish; however, I can no longer dine on fish with a clean conscience.

Here’s the plan: every few days I will post about a certain fishery and explain exactly why I choose not to consume this product. When acquaintances, friends and family ask me why I’m not ordering the sea bass sashimi with yuzu, salmon roe and truffle oil at Zuma, I’d like to have every statistic and fact backed up in hopes of encouraging others to think twice before eating fish.