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Last Updated: Jan 24th, 2011 - 02:22:47 


Blue Fin Extinction
By Cynthia Kirkeby
Jan 8, 2011, 13:40 PST

Film: The End of the Line

MPAA Rating: PG

Grade Level 5-12, college

Subject - Ecology, Science, Life Science, Biology

Keywords - End of the Line, Blue Fin Tuna, extinction, species extinction, ocean stewardship, fish farming

Author - Cynthia F. Kirkeby

Affiliation - ClassBrain, Inc.

Date – January 7, 2011

Duration - 2-3 class periods

Background on the Blue Fin Tuna:

Scientists say that the Blue Fin Tuna will be shortly become extinct, if steps are not taken to prevent it. Countries are literally eating their way through our oceans. How do we ensure that we protect our fish species as we move further into the 21st century? With the ocean critical as a primary food source, as well as a primary oxygen generator for our planet, ocean stewardship is a critical issue that we should be paying more attention to today.

Film Synopsis:

The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Sundance took place in Park City, Utah, January 15-25, 2009.

In the film we see firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food.

It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

Filmed over two years, The End of the Line follows the investigative reporter Charles Clover as he confronts politicians and celebrity restaurateurs, who exhibit little regard for the damage they are doing to the oceans.

Project 1 - Mapping Your Local Markets

Choose one or more markets near you that sell fish and check to see whether or not your market designates where, when, and how the fish were caught. If it is not shown on the signs, talk to the grocer and find out if they know. Make a chart of your store and show the type of fish, country of origin, date of catch, method of catch (ie. gill net, long line, etc.). Hint: for frozen fish, check the package.

Project 2 - Mapping Your Local Markets (or Restaurants) 2

If you live in a busy urban or suburban area, look up fish markets and grocery stores on Google Maps. Call or visit each of the markets and find out if they practice sustainable fish sales. Check Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Guides, for a list of ocean friendly fish in your region of the country, choose a few of the seafood items for your chart, and see whether or not your markets (or restaurants) bring them in from a sustainable source.

Project 3 - Project FishMap

Help the Monterey Bay Aquarium map the sustainable restaurants and markets in your area. Learn more about Project Fishmap.

Project 4 - Fish Stew

Play this great game from the World Wildlife Fund to figure out how to make a sustainable Fish Stew. Launch the Fish Stew now.
Source: The World Wildlife Fund

Reading Assignment on Blue Fin Extinction

Are Atlantic bluefin tuna really about to go extinct? What are the contributing factors and what is being done to try to head off this tragedy? - EarthTalk

According to many marine biologists, Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of three closely related bluefin tuna species, are in danger of going extinct within a decade if the governments of the world can’t come together to ban catching and/or selling the lucrative species. The non-profit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains an international “Red List” of threatened species, considers the Atlantic bluefin “Critically Endangered” given that its population numbers have declined by upwards of 80 percent since the 1970s. Even recently instituted stricter restrictions on allowable catch levels may be too little too late for the huge migratory fish.

The trouble began in the 1960s when fishing boats using purse seines and long lines to pull in fish for the canned tuna market harvested huge numbers of juvenile Atlantic bluefin. This highly efficient method of fishing decimated generations of Atlantic bluefin, constraining their reproductive capacity accordingly.

Today catch limits for Atlantic bluefin—even more in demand worldwide for sushi—are implemented and enforced by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), a multinational group of fisheries regulators charged with maintaining sustainable levels of tuna throughout the Atlantic and neighboring waters. In 2007, ICCAT set the international annual catch limit for Atlantic bluefin at 30,000 tons; double what the commission’s own scientists recommended. More recently, ICCAT’s scientists recommended lowering the limit to 7,500 tons; ICCAT compromised with fishing interests and settled on a 13,500 ton limit. But despite these rules, analysts estimate that the fishing industry is actually still harvesting around 60,000 tons of Atlantic bluefin annually. ICCAT says that if stocks have not rebounded by 2022 it would consider closing down some tuna fishing areas.

With ICCAT’s limits having little effect on the animal’s decline, environmentalists took their case to the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in hopes of getting an international ban on the harvesting and sale of Atlantic bluefin. But in March 2010, 68 nations voted down the proposal; 20 countries, including the U.S., voted for it, while 30 others abstained. The leading opponent of the ban, Japan—which consumes three-quarters of all bluefin tuna caught around the world— argued that ICCAT was the proper regulatory body to sustain Atlantic bluefin population numbers.

As for what concerned individuals can do, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program recommends avoiding bluefin tuna—sometimes called hon maguro or toro (tuna belly) at the supermarket and at restaurants—altogether. And that would not only be a good environmental move but good for your health, too: The non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading environmental group, recently issued a health advisory recommending that people avoid eating Atlantic bluefin due to elevated levels of neurotoxins including mercury and PCBs that can be found in the fish’s tissue. It seems the only way we can continue to live with bluefin tuna and so many other at-risk marine wildlife species is to live without them on our dinner plates.

Learning Links for Blue Fin Extinction - End of the Line

The world's "Big Plan" to save all life on earth
On the table at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, were 20 targets designed to prevent the extinction crisis and restore the earth’s natural environment.
Source: IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature

ICCAT 40 Anniversary Report1966-2006
Source:ICCAT - International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

Proposal to include Atlantic Bluefin Tuna ...
Continued fishing at current fishing mortalities is expected to drive the spawning stock biomass in the East to very low levels; i.e. to about 18% of the 1970 level and 6% of the unfished level. This combination of high fishing mortality, low spawning stock biomass and massive fishing overcapacity results in a high risk of fisheries and stock collapse.
Source: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES

Seafood Watch
Seafood recommendations for sustainable fish sources, Project Fishmap for sharing sustainable seafood restaurants and markets, and so much more can be found at this special microsite from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium

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