Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bluefin Tuna: Predator on the Brink

The bluefin tuna is one of the most majestic animals in the ocean. It's size rivals that of swordfish and black marlin with weights of over 900lbs and possibly as much as 2,000lbs. It is one of the fastest fish in the ocean as well, capable of exceeding speeds of 60 miles per hour. It is an endangered species that will soon face extinction unless something is done to save them in the very near future.

Over the past 40 years, bluefin tuna populations worldwide are estimated to have dropped by an alarming 72% in the Eastern Atlantic and 82% in the Western Atlantic. (Source of statistic: www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/bluefin-tuna938.html#cr) For an animal that has the ability to lay millions of eggs, that is a very concerning statistic. Unlike sharks and rays, bluefin tuna mature rather quickly and can live to be over 50 years old. The problem is even with this high reproductive rate, more tuna are being taken out of the ocean than are surviving to adulthood.

As adults, the greatest threat that bluefin tunas face is man, but when they are younger, there is a vast array of fish and other animals that love to make baby bluefin tuna a meal. Bluefin tuna are known to spawn in very large numbers, which is when they are often captured by commercial fisherman. One of the places in the world where the bluefin tuna is being highly exploited is in the Mediterranean Sea. During spawning season, the tuna are spotted using aircraft. From there boats move in and net entire schools of bluefin tuna. This practice of course not only takes a good sized number of fish out of the sea at once, but it also takes the lives of countless baby bluefin tuna that would have otherwise been able to take the place of the adults if they were allowed to be born. This style of fishing for tuna is by no means sustainable, but it is mostly isolated to the Mediterranean Sea. Closer to home, bluefin tuna face another threat.

Long line fishing is a massive threat to bluefin tuna. Of course long line fishing is an incredibly dangerous style of fishing that claims the lives of countless turtles, sea birds, sharks, seals, small whales, manta rays, and any other animal that bites a hook. For the fisherman though, this style of fishing allows them to potentially catch a large number of tuna and hence, make a large sum. The problem is that they don't only catch tuna. So what is driving these animals towards extinction?

In a word. Humans. In more than one word... Bluefin tuna have long been regarded as one of the best sushi items in Japan. In fact, roughly 80% of the tuna caught in the Atlantic Ocean is shipped to and consumed in Japan. The amount of tuna that people are selling is simply too much. Humans are putting way too much pressure on these animals and leaving them with very little hope for the future. At the heart of the bluefin tuna industry though is the all mighty dollar. Bluefin tuna sells for a pretty high price as it's meat is very valuable. In fact, a tuna sold in Japan for 1.6 million dollars (US). There are bluefin tuna farms, but there is even an issue with this. The tuna do not do all that well in these farms and they are repopulate using fish from the wild.

As you can hopefully see, the pressure these animals are facing is simply overwhelming. For an animal that spawns in just two places in the entire world, there cannot be such a wide unregulated trade. Being a highly migratory species, these animals will enter and leave the waters of many countries. In some they are protected, in others they are exploited. Welcome to the plight of the bluefin tuna. This summer, the hunt for bluefin tuna will once again kickoff in the Mediterranean Sea where tuna populations will once again take a sharp decline. Stay tuned to Operation Forgotten as the summer progresses for more blogs focused on the majestic bluefin tuna.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Welcome to Operation: Forgotten

Hello everyone, I hope that you are all doing well. After some time off it is time for my spring/summer campaign to get underway. There was some uncertainty that this campaign would actually happen, but the more I thought about it, the more I've come to realize that this is really something that needs to be done. So without further delay. Welcome to Operation: Forgotten.

At the conclusion of my last campaign, Operation Sadistic Truths, a major milestone was reached in the fight to protect sharks and manta rays. Despite these new protections, there is still much work that needs to be done. Sharks are still being wiped off the face of the Earth as are manta rays. The gill raker trade that has seen manta populations destroyed continues to grow and more and more of these gentle giants are being wiped out. Shark finning has not slowed much as 100,000,000 sharks are being killed for their fins every year. To catch you all up on recent happenings involving sharks in the United States, well lets just say things are looking slightly up. Maryland, New York, and Delaware have recently banned the sale and possession of shark fins. These laws are similar to the laws that Hawaii, Washington, and several other states have already passed. New York passing this law was very significant as New York is the largest shark fin hub on the east coast of the United States. There is also a similar bill in the New Jersey government system right now. With that being said, the primary focus of Operation: Forgotten will be sharks and manta rays. This summer though, these two amazing creatures will be joined by a third animal that is quickly headed for extinction.

Venture into the open Ocean and you will without a doubt find all kinds of fish. Few though are as majestic as the endangered bluefin tuna. Sadly these fish are being fished to extinction. Bluefin tuna are regularly caught and sold at a very high price. They are yet another one of the Ocean's apex predators that are being driven to extinction by man's unwavering desire for money. For an idea as to just how rapidly these fish are being wiped out consider this fact. Female bluefin tunas are capable of carrying 30 million eggs. Of course the vast majority of those baby fish will be eaten by other fish in the Ocean and only few will survive to adulthood where their size makes them safe from most would be predators. Just like many other fish, bluefin tuna are known to spawn at the same time, so large groups of them will gather together. It is at this time that they are very vulnerable to nets as spawning often takes place near the surface. Sometimes entire schools of bluefin tuna are taken out of the sea at one time, which does heavily hurt their fragile populations. This will be the first time that any of my campaigns have had any kind of focus on these animals.

Without any words, here are two quick photos to show why these animals are in so much trouble.

To put it simply, far too many bluefin tuna are being removed from the Oceans and unless something is done about it soon, they will cease to exist.

So ladies and gentlemen. Here we are at the start of yet another campaign. For those of you who have been following along since Operation: Bleeding Seas last year, you know the plight of sharks and manta rays which is why I didn't really go into detail about them. If you are just joining us. Welcome! I strongly encourage you to take a look back at my past blogs from Operation: Sadistic Truths and Operation: Bleeding Seas to get caught up on the plights of sharks and manta rays. All three of these animals are crucially important to our world. Losing any of them would be nothing short of a tragedy that could severely alter the face of the Earth. While you go about your daily business, do not forget what is going on in the world around you. Do not forget that these animals are suffering and rapidly moving towards extinction. Do not forget that we, the people who care about them, are their only voices. We are the voice of the voiceless. Never forget. With that being said Operation: Forgotten is officially underway. Expect to see the first blog of the campaign go into some more detail about the plight of the bluefin tuna so we are all fully aware of what is going on with these majestic fishes. From there, expect a bunch of blogs on all three of these animals complete with pictures (sometimes very graphic), videos (new to this campaign), facts, opinions, news articles, and much, much more!