Could Farming Bluefin Tuna Help Ensure Its Survival?

Perennial Plate/Video screen capture

From trapping feral pigs to controlling invasive species through brunch and birth control, one of the things I have always loved about the Perennial Plate's videos is their willingness to engage in the controversial issues surrounding our food system—but to do so with a respect for the viewers ability to make up their own mind.

This latest video is no exception, looking at the controversial topic of blue fin tuna farming. With political battles raging over the right to catch endangered bluefin tuna, the Japanese have been looking for alternative ways to meet demand without undermining the long term viability of fish stocks. And while most tuna farms capture young fish and then raise them to adulthood, this fishery in Wakayama Japan is the only place in the world that spawns bluefin.

Perennial Plate/Video screen capture

But spawning alone is just one aspect of environmental sustainability. As the farmer himself acknowledges, it takes 13kg of mackerel to raise 1kg of tuna. And those mackerel are caught in the open sea. Perhaps the secret to sustainability lies in something else the farmer (I'm afraid I didn't catch his name) states, namely that bluefin tuna is a luxury that is, or should be, reserved for special occasions.

This is all about mindset. Whether it applies to eating beef, tuna or using fossil fuels, rethinking some of the more environmentally damaging activities in our lives not as being verboten, but rather as precious privileges not to be indulged in lightly, is a fundamental paradigm shift that would move us toward sustainability. But that won't happen through good intentions alone—we must create market mechanisms by which the cost of a product is reflected in its price. With bluefin tuna fetching record-breaking prices at auction, elements of that paradigm shift may be already underway. Whether it will happen fast enough to prevent extinction remains to be seen.

Tags: Agriculture | Conservation | Endangered Species | Extinction | Farming | Fish | Fishing | Japan