World Tuna Day: Why Are Tuna Fish Important?

By Bronagh Loughlin

Imagine our beautiful blue oceans packed with all the various sea life species and free from any threats. They swim around their waters happily supporting one another and life on Earth. Plastic waste in the ocean and marine life ingesting plastic waste are things of the past. 

All we see now is beautiful blue horizons and hear the splashes of species in the water. We only catch what we require for our nutritional needs. And, when we do catch fish, it is in a sustainable way that does not harm any other marine life.

What a beautiful picture that would be but, unfortunately, we are not there yet. May 2nd marks World Tuna Day. This day is dedicated to shining a light on how important tuna fish are to our marine ecosystem and our global economy. Numerous countries are dependent on tuna for food nutrition and security as well as livelihood, culture, development and employment.  

This is precisely why we need to remember how crucial of a role this species plays in our environment. This global day of recognition for tuna looks at how we, as humans, work within the boundaries of our environment on a global scale.  

Recently, the Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy hit our screens and highlighted many issues within the industry, placing particular focus on poor and illegal fishing practices. Considered by World Wildlife as the Ferraris of the ocean, this species, like other marine life, are facing serious threats. The primary threat being overfishing.

Fishermen have developed high-tech methods to catching numerous tuna fish at once. Unfortunately, this causes the species to be overfished and there is risk of them becoming extinct.  

As a result, overfishing threatens global seafood supply security. Not just that but tuna is an incredibly important marine species. They are a top food source and predator within the marine food chain and they greatly help to maintain balance the ocean environment.  

Ocean predators maintain marine life populations to avoid an upset of the ecological balance. If this happens, it can result in a destabilised marine environment and food web. Another issue highlighted by the recent Netflix documentary is Bycatch. This refers to when fishermen catch and discard animals they do not want or cannot sell.  

It is a method used to catch tuna fish since they swim very deep in the ocean. The primary issue with this method of fishing is that animals are being killed for no reason. Most of the world’s valuable tuna species are facing urgent threats to their existence such as poor international conservation management, population declines and increasing levels of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, also known as pirate fishing. 

What can be done to help tuna fish? Transitioning to ethical and sustainable fisheries will see oceans supported and aid fish populations to recover, all the while, providing seafood to the people who need it most. People with resources can speed up this shift by purchasing sustainably or locally caught seafood.  

Methods like hand-thrown nets or pole and line are craftmanship of artisanal fishing that have been passed down through generations. These are individuals who have huge respect for the fish, ocean and the various limitations. They can educate us on how to strike the harmonious chord with our amazing oceans and also provide us with ways to feed our populations while also taking workers’ rights and ocean health into consideration.  

Spending in sustainable fisheries is an investment in our community and our future. These kinds of fisheries will make sure fish populations recover and even flourish in the near future. They will work within our stunning planet’s boundaries, taking into consideration the finite resources.  

If we can all work together, our oceans could be vibrant and thriving once again. It’s crucial that we address the issue surrounding our marine life. The sea life in our oceans are not just a crucial source of food, they host 90 percent of the planet’s biodiversity and are the largest ecosystem on the planet. 

Put simply, beyond food, our world ocean provides the air we breathe in daily, regulates our climate and fuels our economy. We need to act now to stop tuna fish from becoming extinct. If we allow this to happen, this could be the beginning to all our marine life becoming extinct. Therefore, if we want to live and thrive on our planet, our oceans and those living in them need to thrive also. 

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