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Blue Fin Tuna Overfishing Buddhist Interconnectedness

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By lemon5
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One value in Buddhist teaching is interconnectedness. It discards the notion that people hierarchically are above all other beings. People tend to forget that the world is interconnected and that once we exploit our resources they are gone. As humans control the earth and do with as they please they can an in many cases unintentionally destroy the earth and its natural resources. One environmental issue caused by human impact is the overfishing of the Bluefin Tuna to the point where it has been placed on the critically endangered species list. Bluefin Tuna are being overfished at an alarming rate this human greed from a Buddhist perspective will cause the depletion and over all extinction if nothing is changed. Bluefin Tuna populations in the Atlantic Ocean have declined over 70 percent in the last thirty years yet because seafood is a global commodity being flown into markets around the world the demand has become unquenchable. Overfishing for Bluefin continues scientist expect the fish to become extinct by 2012 if nothing changes. ( The Bluefin Tuna is a species of Tuna native to both the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea. This is a relatively large species of fish. A full grown male can average six to eight feet long and can weigh up to 770 pounds, although the Bluefin is capable of reaching over one thousand pounds. Bluefin Tuna are robust and rhomboidal in shape. They have dark blue upper body and grey below with a gold glint covering the body. They also have bright yellow caudal fins. Bluefin can live up to 30 years but due to heavy fishing mortality few specimens grow to a mature age.("Northern Bluefin Tuna") Bluefin are carnivores in nature they typically hunt small fish and invertebrates such as sardines, herring, mackerel, squid, and crustaceous. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna") Female Bluefin are though to produce up to forty million eggs. These tuna have two primary spawning grounds. One place exists in the western Mediterranean Sea particularly near the Balearic Islands. Another important spawning site is in the Gulf of Mexico. Satellite images confirm the popular belief that even though the Bluefin resides in deep waters of the Atlantic during mating season they return to one of there two areas to spawn. These tuna group together in a large concentration during mating this makes them more vulnerable to commercial fisherman, especially in the Mediterranean where the groups of tuna can be spotted from air in the translucent waters. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna") Each summer when the Bluefin Tuna migrate into warmer waters such as the Mediterranean to breed and spawn an ancient tradition called Tonnara is being practiced on the western coast of Sicily. Tonnara is a long fence like net that forces the migrating and sometimes breeding tuna to become trapped in the series of netted chambers. The nets are pulled out and the fish are slaughtered. At one time there were over 200 locations of Tonnara fisheries but now there is barely enough to support two Tonnara. The nets disrupt breeding which makes it hard for Bluefin to reproduce decreasing their numbers they are also captured in these nets quickening there depletion. (
Bluefin Tuna is a highly prized food fish Because of this it is a highly sought out fish by fisherman the amount of money a fisherman can make off of one Bluefin is $100,000 at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan. Bluefin Tuna is one of the most highly prized fish in Japan where its sashimi is a particular delicacy. The Bluefin industry in Japan is about a 7.2 billion dollar industry. Japanese on average consume more than 80 percent of all Bluefin captured. The Bluefin cannot reproduce at a fast enough rates to compensate the demand of its flesh. This greed is causing the fish to go extinct. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna") Despite repeated warning overfishing continues. In 2007, resources from the international commission for the conversation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) recommended a global quota of 15,000 tones of Bluefin to be fished. However despite this ICCAT chose to allow 22,000 tones to be fished. In 2009, the ICCAT association confirmed that the tuna stocks are declining by 72 percent in east Atlantic and by 82 percent in the western Atlantic. In October 2009 the Bluefin Tuna was recommended to be placed on the CITES (convention on international trade in endangered species) Appendix I list and to have an international trade ban. The proposal for an international ban was not received well by Japan and Korea whose economy relies on the tuna where it is a multi billion-dollar industry. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna"),(Jolly, and Broader ) The convention on international trade in endangered species failed to protect the Bluefin. In March 2010 the United Nations rejected the US backed efforts to impose the ban. CITES delegates voted don the proposal to protect Bluefin by 68to 20, with 30 abstentions. The rejection of the ban was a clear victory for the Japanese government, which had vowed not to comply with international ban from the start. ICCAT has said that if the stock of the Bluefin were not rebuilt by 2022 it would consider closing some of the commercial fisheries. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna");(Jolly, and Broader ) One solution to the depletion of these fish is that countries are implementing the idea of farm raised Bluefin, which some say taste identical to wild Bluefin. Japan especially is leading the way in farm raising Bluefin. In 2009, aqua culturists succeeded in breeding Bluefin in captivity and keeping them alive through their development from larvae to fingerlings to young juveniles. But this intervention is causing more problems than it’s solving. By farm raising the Bluefin farmer have to feed the fish tons of small fish like mackerels. The large amount of these fish needed to sustain the Bluefin is causing depletion in the smaller fish. However researchers are trying to develop a protein substitute to feed the fish. There is also a heavy worry about disease in farm-raised fish. There is a heavy need to use lot of antibiotics and other medication to keep them healthy. By raising the fish in captivity it raises the possibility, that the seemingly inevitable collapse of the natural populations can be offset by cultivation of a new one. ("Northern Bluefin Tuna") From a Buddhist perspective the idea of farm raising these animals contribute to Ahimsa. It relates to Pimentel article on lactoovovegitarian diet. We need animals for food but farm raised animal rely on humans to supple them with food it’s a interdependent symbiotic relationship that humans do not want to acknowledge because of hierarchical notions. Farm raised animals are taken out of there natural habitat and breed to be consumed this enforces the idea of there value they are thought of as food not sentient beings and therefore do not matter this reinforces the idea of self and continues the cycle of Dukkha. A better solution to this problem would be to decrease the amount of fish allowable to take or to allow fishing for Bluefin during certain times of the year. The problem with this solution is that most of the fisheries would lose money and not make huge profit that they are accustom to making. Therefore fisheries do not want to cut back on the fishing they would oppose this solution like the ban.("Northern Bluefin Tuna") Another solution has been to given to slow the depletion of Bluefin it is to catch only male Bluefin Tuna. These way females can lay eggs and produce more offspring’s to keep the stalk of Bluefin from becoming extinct.("Northern Bluefin Tuna") From a Buddhist perspective this could all have been solved if people would only fish what they need and not be so greedy for the sake of commercialism. Bluefin Tuna is regarded as one of the most highly evolved fish and is prized as a luxury food in Japan much like the Filet Migon in America. This notion of self and society creates this false sense that Bluefin is a necessity and not a food necessity but a class necessity. One can not just eat tuna but one needs Bluefin Tuna, more exclusively they eat Ootoro the fatty belly, because its expensive therefore the best by societal demands. Buddhism talk about Dukkha which means suffering, suffering caused by the concept of self it leads us to be selfish and only think of ourselves. This selfishness is causing us to deplete our natural resource like the Bluefin tuna. Buddhist notion of Ahimsa is clearly violated creating karma and suffering to the world and the Bluefin Tuna once they are extinct then millions of fisherman who make their living off of these fish will be jobless and will have no money to support their family in the end we all lose. Buddhism does not look down upon one for killing for food however in the case of the Bluefin they are being killed for prestige and commercial interest. Bluefin tuna weight up to 770 pounds that is a lot of flesh to be consumed. It is hard to imagine that so many of these fish are needed to sustain the populations that consume it. (Palmer) The concept of self creates greed. This greed has made us want and desire things that are not a necessity. This greed has caused us to overfish large fisheries want to make an extensive profit so they fish at an alarming rate. This greed from a Buddhist perspective leads to more suffering. If the Bluefin Tuna become extinct many fisherman will be out of work and poor they will not be able to support there families and everyone suffers. Of course Greed clouds people judgment most of the fisherman are thinking in the present moment about how at the end of the week they will receive a large sum for the tuna they caught, they do not realize the consequences of their actions. The Fisherman do not realize the interdependence of the world. Everything is interconnected. The fishermen rely on the Bluefin so that they can earn a living. People rely on the fisherman to bring them the Tuna to eat and consume for nourishment. In return the fisherman relies on the people to buy the fish. It's a cycle that no one thinks about. Buddhism teaches one to have compassion and to love all things. It also teaches us to be kind and loving towards all beings no one is above another we all have an equally valued life. There is not enough compassion on the human end to regard animals as beings that have feelings and lives of value, therefore overfishing will continue and not stop. In conclusion, nature should be preserved and not disturbed. The Bluefin tuna population is dramatically decreasing because of the commercial fishing industry. Many environmental groups like ICCAT and CITES have tried to implement bans and limits to the fishing but they have fail and or receive much criticism by critics. Researchers have proposed various solutions to this problem; the issue is how to implement them. Japan the leading consumer of this fish consuming more than 80 percent opposed a ban on the fish saying it will hurt there fishing industry with makes multimillions off of this one fish. From a Buddhist perspective I fee as if it will be hard to implement these plans to save the Bluefin if people do not obtain enlightenment about the situation and about society. Ahimsa creates bad karma creating more suffering. By harming the Bluefin Tuna we create eco karma and induce more suffering on ourselves as people once we understand this then we can grow compassion for all being this compassion will help us understand that we just like these tuna are the same interconnected. Once we understand that we are interconnected the false sense of self, which leads to greed, will disintegrate away. Our compassion for these animals will help us to find a valid solution to the environmental issue of overfishing the Bluefin Tuna. Blue fin tuna has the ability to grow very large. They can reach up to one thousand pounds the largest Bluefin ever aught was 1500 pounds. This ability to grow big allows them to be able to swim freely not having to worry about predators in the water the only predator the Bluefin has to worry about would be humans.

Jolly, David, and John Broader. "U.N. Rejects Export Ban on Atlantic Bluefin." The New York Times 03-18-2010, online.

"Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Series." N.p., Web. 6 May 2010. .

"Northern Bluefin Tuna." Wikipedia. 2010. Web. .

Palmer, Vanya. “Defending Sentient Beings.” Dharma Rain Source of Buddhist Environmentalism.

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