Today, Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world, will hold its first tuna auction of the year. The event garners international attention, as auction-goers bid exorbitant sums of money to purchase the year’s first Pacific bluefin tuna.
Tuna has been caught at a volume of almost 5 million tonnes per year—a market valued at some $40 billion. However, stocks of the Pacific bluefin have plummeted 97% since the 1950s. Recently, Japan, Mexico and the US have come under fire for surpassing fishing limits on the species.
In September, two commissions charged with maintaining the world’s tuna population agreed to rebuild tuna stocks to 20% of their historic levels by 2034—the minimum required to preserve the fish. Success is uncertain; methods to prevent illegal catching, like patrolling the seas, have been unsuccessful in the past, and the global fishing industry remains opposed to regulation.
If tuna fishing continues at its current rate, the only hope for the species would be a strict fishing moratorium of at least two years. Today’s tuna sale is expected to net, at minimum, tens of thousands of dollars, signalling that demand for the fish remains strong, despite a depleted supply.
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Max is Foreign Brief's Chief Executive Officer. A Latin America specialist, Max is an expert in regional political and economic trends, focusing particularly on the Southern Cone.