Continued overfishing of Bluefin tuna — a sushi staple sometimes worth up to $1.76 million for a single fish — has created a decline in numbers by more than 97 percent of historic population levels, according to a dire report from the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC).
Current population estimates place Bluefin tuna at roughly 2.6 percent of its “unfished” size, while demand for tuna continues to fuel overfishing, despite efforts by conservationists to let the tuna repopulate. In 2014, the Bluefin population was estimated at four percent of historic levels, and consisted of a limited breeding stock that was already approaching the end of its lifecycle.
In some regions, Bluefin is reportedly harvested at three times the levels considered to be sustainable. Conservationists working to rebuild Bluefin fisheries are working toward a goal of 6.4 percent of historic populations, or 42,592 metric tons, by 2024. Some experts caution, however, that the minimum population size for a sustainable fishery is 20 percent of historic levels.
Without drastic measures, like an indefinite ban on Bluefin fishing, the highly sought-after fish faces commercial extinction. “The situation is really as bad as it appears,” said Amanda Nickson, director for Global Tuna Conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.