The bluefin tuna is in the process of being fished to extinction: conservation scientists say that if current trends continue, stocks of the giant fish will almost certainly be depleted for good. Yet repeated efforts to get international bodies that regulate the trade of endangered species to take action have been blocked time and again. And this little news item offers a pretty good indicator of why:
Here's the Associated Press:
A bluefin tuna caught off northeastern Japan fetched a record price of about $736,000 on Thursday in an auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market.It's also worth remembering that the sale of a bluefin tuna in an auction this time last year, also broke a record for fetching the highest price at that time.
The price for the 593-pound tuna translates to $1,238 per pound — also a record, said Yutaka Hasegawa, a Tsukiji market official ... Shimogawara pointed out that, if sold at cost, each piece of the sushi could cost as much as $96.
Apparently, buying the fish for such an exorbitant price–even for the rare and typically exorbitantly priced fish–was partly a marketing stunt orchestrated by Kiyoshi Kimura, the president of Kiyomura Co., which operates a major sushi chain. Nonetheless, it reveals just how high market demand for the endangered species continues to be, and how the excitement generated by what equates to a lavish luxury good continues to trump conservation efforts worldwide.
Many of the news reports circulating the headline-grabbing news scarcely mention the dire straits the fish is in, and instead elect to bask in the glitzy glow of the high price tag it fetches. That the bluefin is capable of snagging such a huge price tag is of course the primary reason that conservationists have been unable to stop its decline–such efforts have been blocked by Japan, of course, where the fish is cherished in high-end sushi, but also by European nations, where fishermen profit by selling the catch.
Cases like the bluefin are especially and pointedly depressing: We have here a scenario in which an entire species will probably go extinct expressly to please the tastes of luxury consumers.