Bluefin Tuna: Going, Going, Gone

Atlantic Bluefin tuna are nearing extinction.© Getty Images

Atlantic Bluefin tuna, rigorously pursued because of the high prices they command as sushi on the Japanese market, are being pushed to near-extinction from Holland to northern Norway, according to a new report in the journal Fisheries Research (see "Saving the Seas," feature, July/August 2005). The research, conducted by Dr. Brian MacKenzie of the Technical University of Denmark and the late Dr. Ransom Myers of Canada’s Dalhousie University, found that the waters of northern Europe teemed with bluefin tuna in the summer season from at least 1912 until 1950. But increases in the number of fishing boats and more technologically sophisticated fishing gear led to a crash in the 1960s. There has been no recovery in the 40 years since.

"High fishing pressure preceded the species" virtual disappearance from the area, and that apparently played a key role," says Dr. MacKenzie, who also cites the targeting of juvenile tuna, and the introduction of many foreign fishing fleets. "We hope our work will inspire a more precautionary approach to the management of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic," he says.