Nat Geo's ‘Wicked Tuna’: Ways to make bluefin fishing sustainable

Yahoo Contributor Network

The wicked exciting escapades of "Wicked Tuna" are returning to Nat Geo! Bluefin tuna can fetch a hefty sum, but it has to be fished responsibly. One of the reasons bluefin is so prized and expensive is because the stocks have dwindled. The fishermen on "Wicked Tuna" have been fishing the bluefin for generations, and they're not about to stop. When one bluefish can bring in $20,000, you can bet there will be many fishermen on the hunt. But how can it be fished in a way that won't eradicate the species from the planet forever?

Rod and reel

The most modern form of hook and line fishing -- rod and reel fishing -- is not so modern; it has been around since ancient times. The rod and reel that is heavy enough to allow for bluefin fishing has been around since the early 1900s. It is the most sustainable form of fishing, mainly because it's so difficult. It can take several hours to bring in a single bluefin, and many of them get away.

It is also much more selective, so there are fewer mistakes. Destroying fish that are not even the target is a huge problem with other forms of fishing, especially when a net is used to pull up a large group of fish at once.

Bluefin quotas

The most important approach to ensure that the bluefin are no longer overfished is to use a quota system. When fishermen are limited to a certain number of bluefin based on their current numbers, then these creatures won't be overfished. Unfortunately, other countries may have a harder time keeping their quotas, which can affect all the numbers. Because the bluefin migrate, overfishing on one side of the ocean will affect the numbers on the other side, because they are the same stock of fish! This is why it is so critical for quotas to be kept worldwide.

Saving the bluefin's food and habitat

The ocean relies on a certain ecosystem to provide food and a healthy environment for all the fish within. Larger fish and whales feed on smaller fish, all the way down the line from very large fish to tiny microscopic fish. That's why it's important not to overfish any one fish, no matter the size. Technology can help in the effort: Fishing lines can be updated so they will more likely catch targeted fish without causing waste by damaging other fish populations.

Our turn: making smarter choices

Tuna consumers need to make smarter decisions. It is important to find out where your fish comes from and to make substitutions, opting for fish that are not in danger of being wiped out. A can of tuna that simply says "dolphin safe" is not enough information. You need to know exactly what kind of fish you are eating and where it came from. This can be difficult, as asking questions can result in false responses. The best way to find out is to do your research. There are people out there who are willing to follow a can of tuna all the way to its source; you may be one of them. A simple search for brands or restaurants online may reveal any concerns about the source of their fish.

"Wicked Tuna" airs on Sunday, 1/13 at 9 PM ET on Nat Geo.

View Comments