The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: A Tragedy of the Commons on the High Seas
Considered the biggest threat to marine ecosystems today, it is estimated that three fourths of the world’s fish stocks are being harvested faster than they can reproduce. Because the ocean is not subject to defined property rights, there exists a “race to the bottom” encouraged by the rise of industrial fishing, as well as a voracious global demand. The Atlantic bluefin tuna provides a glaring example of an overfished species on the brink of extinction due to its popularity in the Japanese market. Its rarity and esteem have made it the most expensive fish in the sea and policy has so far failed to hinder the hunt for this profitable species. As a top predator in the marine food chain its viability poses a potential threat to maintaining balance in the ocean’s ecosystem and tuna ranching largely perceived as a sustainable solution has only served to exacerbate that problem by jeopardizing the ocean’s natural processes. Additionally, the intrinsic value of bluefin tuna and fish species in general has created little sympathy among consumers. For real change to happen, in the form of bluefin tuna being able to successfully replenish itself and reproduce, consumer awareness, international cooperation, and adherence to sustainable fishing will be required.