Bluefin Tuna -- The Ocean's Bling

by Conor Friedersdorf

Brandon Keim writes:

...impending bluefin doom only makes them more valuable. In January, a 440-pound bluefin sold for a record $173,000. Another record will no doubt be set next year. Japanese companies the de facto controllers of global bluefin fishing have deep-frozen an estimated 30,000 tons of bluefin; it’s already worth between $10 billion and $20 billion, and the price inflation of extinction could turn that sum into pocket change.

At this point in the discussion, people like me usually shake their heads with despair at the greedy, short-sighted rapacity of the bluefin fishing industry. But the more I think about it, the less they bother me.

Their rationale for exterminating those magnificent creatures at least makes sense: they want to get filthy rich while the money’s flowing. If they don’t catch the bluefin, someone else will. It’s simple supply and demand.

This is as good a moment as any to plug one of my hobbyhorses, the alarming depletion of global fisheries. I understand that climate change is a controversial subject that sparks intense disagreement among people of goodwill, but whatever your stance on it, I submit that preserving humanity's ability to feed itself partly from the bounty of the sea must rank among our most urgent environmental priorities, and as far as I can tell, it isn't anywhere near the top of the political agenda. John Schwenkler argues convincingly that better markets in fish can help. I'd add that a global ban on bottom trawling, one of the most destructive kinds of commercial fishing, is a no brainer.

I've actually strayed from the point of Mr. Keim's post -- worth reading in full -- which casts aspersions on consumers:

“People believe in their hearts that a piece of raw fish is worth $600. And one of the main reasons that it’s worth $600 is because you can’t afford it and I can’t, but they can. That makes it very special, and it makes people who eat it special.

“Any kind of luxury goods largely come from that sort of statement: I can afford it, and you can’t. I’ll drive a Maserati, even if I can’t drive it faster than 65 miles per hour in most of the United States. I can afford a $280,000 car, and you’re stuck with a Dodge Neon. I can fly private jet, drive a Maserati, do anything I bloody well please, including having a $600 piece of fish. And you can’t.”

And this is the brutal truth: bluefin, which beyond their intrinsic value as living creatures happen to be one of the universe’s more majestic species, a Platonic ideal of oceanic speed and grace, aren’t being extinguished by our greed. They’re being sacrificed to our vanity, pretension, and ostentation the most pathetic of our vices.

Is he right? If so, "Bluefin -- The Diamonds of the Sea!"