Tuna Needs a Lifeline—Let’s Find Innovations That Throw It One

National Geographic
  • National Geographic
  • Monica Jain, October 17, 2018

For a fish that evokes comforting simplicity—whether in a classic lunchbox sandwich or on a pristine sashimi platter—tuna exists in a complex and often troubling reality.

It’s one of the species we eat the most: tuna is the third-largest seafood commodity in the world. It’s fished in international waters and most species are migratory, which together make fisheries management a challenge. Several major species are overfished or maxed out (though Skipjack and Albacore stocks are healthy). And the most common fishing methods can create unacceptable by-catch levels. At the same time, tuna is important culturally, nutritionally, and economically to communities around the world—especially small island nations.

Add all this up, and the result is that we have to get to sustainability but there are no easy fixes. That makes the tuna sector ripe for innovation. 

In search of consensus

Tuna fishing is managed by a tangle of international regulatory bodies, in a process often marked by tilted power dynamics and the jockeying for advantage that comes with a product that fetches $6.2 billion at the dock and $28.5 billion at the cash register.

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