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A couple of points not covered here: first, the exorbitant prices for single fish cited are always a ceremonial purchase of the first fish of the season, bought at auction in Japan as a sign of prestige, in what is effectively a PR stunt for the buyer. Noteworthy to be sure, but it’s false to leave the impression that any given tuna at market can be a million dollar fish.

Second: while the two populations are biologically very similar, if not identical, there is a major difference between population status of Pacific bluefin, which the author correctly cites as being at 2.5-3% of its biomass, and Atlantic bluefin, which, while still depleted, is not in as dire condition. Its international management body, the International Commission on Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, has actually taken fairly effective (though not perfect by any means) steps toward science-based catch limits and enforcement. We need its Pacific counterpart to step up now.

Bluefin is a perfect example of the “who fishes matters” principle. A tuna caught by someone like Ralph Wilkins, quoted in the lede paragraph, or a harpooner (yes, Atlantic bluefin are still caught one at a time by harpoon in New England) carries an entirely different sustainability price tag than one ranched in the Mediterranean or purse seined or long-line caught in the Pacific.

Blanket boycotts may be simple, but they have unintended consequences. Instead, be an informed consumer, and target what makes sense, not what makes a good campaign slogan.

For more, see this piece I wrote for the Center for American Progress back in 2012:

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