The bluefin tuna is a species in decline. While the Pacific variety isn’t as endangered as the West Atlantic bluefin, it’s quite telling that half of the 600 devices that researchers from Tag-A-Giant attached to Pacific bluefins were returned to the New York-based operation by fishermen seeking the $500 reward for each device. Combine the pressure from fishing with the weather experienced in the region this year and you have a species that may not be around to see 2010.
It certainly doesn’t help that it’s such a tasty fish.
In early 2009, a 282-pound bluefin caught off the northern coast of Oma was sold to a pair of rival restaurateurs who set aside their differences to procure the massive fish for $100,000. In 2001,
a 440-pound tuna was sold for the phenomenal
price of $220,000.
In 2010, however, the 440-pound tuna’s record was beaten by the sale of a gargantuan 513-pound bluefin. Sold at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, the most expensive tuna in the world was also purchased by a confederacy of restaurateurs—this time the owners of two sushi restaurants in Japan and the owner of one in Hong Kong.
Part of the reason for these phenomenal prices, of course, is the bluefin’s rarity. While forty-one bluefin tuna were sold at a 2008 auction, only three were sold at the same auction in 2009. The economic crisis, however, may have been a boon for the bluefin population as consumers found the fish too rich for their wallets. In adition, The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas reduced the quota for the 2010 catch to 13,500 tons—around two-thirds of the former quota.
Still, offering a reward for the prize in the fish’s belly might not have been such a good idea after all.