You probably know yellowfin tuna, or thunnus albacares, as the stuff you dig out of a can and mix with mayo and celery. Thought to be prolific and inexhaustible, this fish is now in danger in the great expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
Attendees of a fisheries conference in New Zealand were warned this week that Pacific yellowfin could be decimated if controls on fishing are not enforced.
"The highly migratory fish stocks of the western and central Pacific are at a critical juncture," New Zealand Fisheries Minister Jim Anderson told the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries committee at its annual meeting. "That is, if they continue to be fished in the same way as we are doing now, we will destroy the fish stock."
As other fishing stocks shrink, yellowfin and big-eye are coming under increasing pressure. Officials note growing numbers of Latin American vessels, for instance, moving into the western and central Pacific to hunt for the fish. Illigal fishing also is rampant.
According to the Seafood Watch program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "overfishing is occurring throughout the Pacific" and stocks of the yellowfin are "of a high conservation concern."
Yellowfin mature relatively quickly and are fairly prolific. Its bigger and tastier cousin, the bluefin tuna, is highly prized and already endangered.
Of particular concern in the yellowfin industry are the purse seine and longline fishing techniques of international fleets in the Pacific. Both methods result in large amounts of by-catch, including dolphin. If possible, Seafood Watch advises consumers to avoid yellowfin caught in this manner. According to Seafood Watch, the best choice is U.S.-caught yellowfin from the Atlantic.
Even then, consumption of canned tuna should be limited because of mercury in the fish. Check the Environmental Defense website for more details.