In August of 2001, I was fishing a mile off the coast of Maine with my three brothers in our family’s 17-foot boat. The skies were cloudy, the chop was increasing, and we were thinking of heading back to shore. We spotted a school of bluefish erupting from the water ahead of us, and we sped to reach them. We threw out our bait and lures, but they weren’t interested. If you’ve ever been bluefishing, you know how unusual this was. Bluefish will hit anything you throw at them, but here they were running away. In fact, this had been the case all day.
We had no idea what was going on until a few minutes later when the schools seemed to disappear altogether. Then, because I happened to be looking in the right direction, I saw a fish come out of the water that I had never seen before. It was a fish of legend—the bluefin tuna.
I believe the bluefin tuna is Nature’s masterpiece in fish. The giant bluefin tuna can reach more than 12 feet in length and weigh more than 1500lbs. It can live 40 years. It travels the world’s oceans, and represents perfection in aquatic physiology. It is warm-blooded and can reach burst speeds of over 50 mph.
The giant bluefin has been called the buffalo of the seas. It used to exist in numbers that defy comprehension. Millions used to swim past the Rock of Gibraltar, gate of the Mediterranean. Aristotle wrote about them; the Phoenicians minted their image on coins. Hemingway battled them in the waters of the Gulf Stream. Their flesh is ruby-red with a hint of translucence, and their belly meat, called toro in Japan, is prized above all.
For millennia, these great fish have lived the drama of their lives in the deep, largely beyond human eyes—and because of this, largely beyond our understanding. But in the short span of 25 years, bluefin tuna have gone from being abundant to being severely overfished and in some regions, threatened with extinction. This is most seriously the case in the Mediterranean. The culprits are familiar—industrial fishing, poor government oversight, powerful commercial fishing lobbies. In short, the greed of a few and the ignorance, or callous indifference, of the many.
I am a passionate sport fisherman, and believe it is within the moral rights of people to eat fish. But I am a human being first, and I believe it is unconscionable to allow the bluefin tuna to disappear from the face of the earth. I have decided I must live out these beliefs by taking action: by not eating tuna, by becoming involved with groups whose mission is to restore the seas, and by doing what I can to get the message out. I do this because I believe it is humanity’s responsibility to ensure that the bluefin continue to exist.
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