The giant bluefin tuna (or Northern bluefin tuna) is an Atlantic dweller that typically preys on small fish and invertebrates. They’re most obvious spawning grounds can be found in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico.
How we best recognize them is probably in this way:
Recent analysis on the stock size of this tuna species has revealed the severity of their endangerment. Existing numbers of the giant bluefin are said to total less than a fifth of their original population. The issue isn’t so much that we’re consuming them, but is the broken-record problem of overconsumption. Japan is easily the largest consumer of the giant bluefin tuna, as it is an important icon in their cusine and economy.
The fishing industry harvests roughly 80 times that of the recommended quota annually, and the result is a substantial thinning of the stocks to the point where international conservation organizations are lobbying for the temporary suspension of bluefin tuna all together (see the BBC article here).
I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of how fish species come in and go out of the menu spotlight as a result of their status in the natural world before. Hopefully the danger facing the giant bluefin will be acknowledged by the dining public quickly enough so that a consumption shift can occur to allow for the stocks to recover. In Japan, the government has recently announced an ambitious 50 percent cut in Southern bluefin tuna catches, as that species is in arguably worse condition than the Northern variety. Fisherman will no doubt feel the repurcussions of quota cuts, but it’s a trickly gamble to juggle the fate of a species and the livelihood of a people. International pressures are becoming more concerted and public awareness is building, ideally culminating into an active win-win preservation effort of this popular sushi fish.