Video: Tuna Untangled
That ever-present tin in the pantry. Or grab-and-go sushi lunch. More often than not, we think of tuna as “food” before “fish.”
But the scale at which we eat tuna today is having an impact — not just on the fish, but the ocean itself.
Before they make it to our plates, tuna play a vital role in maintaining our blue planet — because fish don’t just inhabit the ocean, they fuel it.
Big fish like mature tuna perform essential functions. They help maintain the natural balance of the environment by storing and cycling nutrients and carbon. Just by swimming, diving, eating and, yes, pooping, tuna are mixing water layers and moving nutrients that are crucial to our ocean’s food chain and our planet’s climate.
Like a farmer might use fertilizer to make plants grow, tuna help plankton grow in our ocean. And like any other plants, plankton produce oxygen and absorb CO2 emissions. In fact, we have plankton to thank for half the oxygen we breathe.
So tuna are definitely more than food, and it’s time to change how we fish for them. Fishing as carelessly as we do now means we’re endangering other species like sharks and rays.
These predators also help keep our ocean healthy, but some oceanic shark and ray populations have declined by as much as 90% since the 1970s. Species that have survived since the time of the dinosaurs pushed to the brink of extinction in just a few decades.
And that’s all down to overfishing. When these fish are gone, entire ecosystems can be thrown out of balance — threatening the oxygen production and carbon storage we need to survive. But this is a human-caused problem, and it’s in our power to fix.
Fishing that happens on the high seas — the part of the ocean that doesn’t belong to a single country — is regulated by organizations that work mostly out of public view. This lack of transparency means they have been able to delay needed reforms.
WWF is pushing for common-sense and science-based actions that will allow tuna, shark and ray populations to recover. One of our key recommendations is to put observers on all industrial fishing vessels to collect data, monitor catches, and prevent any illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
These fish are more than delicacies. They sustain millions of people and play a critical role in keeping the fragile balance of our planet in place. Safeguarding their future helps ensure our own.