The Bluefin tuna, admired by chefs and scientists alike, is the most sought-after fish in the ocean. Once used for cat food, these endangered fish are now one of the most prized delicacies in the world. Earlier this year, a 405-kilogram tuna sold for just under $415,000 at the infamous Tsukiji tuna auction in Tokyo, Japan.
There are three distinct species of Bluefin tuna found around the world: Atlantic, Southern , and Pacific. They migrate across oceans, transcend borders and can swim at speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour. This cross-border migration makes it a particularly hard species to manage. Atlantic Bluefin, the largest of the three species, is listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with the western stock currently depleted by upward of 86% of its original abundance. In light of recent claims from Canadian Maritime fishers about the miraculous return of Atlantic Bluefin tuna to their shores, Chef Hans Vogels of Momofuku Noodle Bar and Chef Ned Bell of Ocean Wise held an afternoon workshop for Ontario chefs to learn more about the current state and future challenges associated with this species and the fishery.
With well-placed concern around putting this fallen giant back on the menu, it came as no surprise that Ontario’s culinary titans packed into Momofuku to hear more about tuna. The speakers included experts from academia, the NGO community, filmmakers, the fishing industry, as well as chefs eager to share their knowledge, experiences, and insights on the current health of this species.
The workshop began with a screening of the 2016 documentary Bluefin: The Last of the Giants . The National Film Board doc explores the mystery behind why the Atlantic Bluefin tuna, previously chased out of the region due to overfishing, has returned to the Maritimes in surprising abundance and with a worrisome lack of fear of humans. Director John Hopkins documents this phenomenon and brings the issues into sharp focus. Spoiler alert: these fish may in fact be the last of their kind.
Following the documentary, Bluefin tuna experts Laurenne Schiller of Ocean Wise and Katie Schleit of the Ecology Action Centre presented the scientific evidence on why all three Bluefin tuna species will continue to be severely threatened around the world, despite rumblings from the fishery industry that they’re back in abundance. Representatives from the Atlantic Bluefin tuna trade and the Maritime chef community who continue to sell and serve Bluefin were also invited to present their views on the socio-economic and cultural significance of the Atlantic Bluefin fishery.
At the ending of the workshop, chefs were encouraged to ask questions and share thoughts on the role the food industry plays in shaping and influencing trends. The workshop’s chief aim was to facilitate an open and honest dialogue with all stakeholders on these issues. Hopefully, chefs left feeling armed with knowledge and information to make their own culinary decisions.
No matter what your opinion on Bluefin tuna, Ocean Wise encourages you to ask the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions about the seafood you purchase. You can read more about Bluefin tuna by checking out our post on the tuna debate from 2016.
Look for the Ocean Wise symbol in order to make the best choices that safeguard the future health of our fisheries for generations to come. Can’t see our symbol? Ask for more information. If it cannot be provided to you, simply do not buy it. You vote with your wallet every time you purchase sustainable seafood by supporting healthy, well-managed fisheries and farms around the world. Together, incrementally, we can keep building, creating positive change, and shaping a world in which our oceans are healthy and flourishing. You can read more about Bluefin tuna by checking out our Bluefin 101 blog (https://www.aquablog.ca/2016/10/bluefin-tuna-101/).
Written by Deirdre Finn, Account Representative, Ocean Wise Seafood.