Beneath a raging storm in the Gulf of Mexico, among the creaking oil platforms a magnificent creature is born. Hatching at just 3.5 millimeters in length the small fry may appear at the bottom of the food chain, but she is a predator.
Bluefin tuna leaping at Watergate Bay, Newquay, UK. Credit: Megan Hemsworth
Within days she must learn to hunt copepods and cladocerans while dodging the hungry mouths of bigger animals. But she will grow rapidly — multiplying her size by tens of millions of times and before long becoming one of the biggest fish in the world, perhaps exceeding eight feet and 1,500 pounds. She may live for half a century circumnavigating the vast Atlantic basin, venturing through waters cold enough to paralyze other fish. She is as fast as an ostrich and can dive deeper than a thousand meters. She hunts cooperatively with her schoolmates, taking her place in formation and coordinating complex strategies to catch fish and squid from the frothing surface to the dark abyss.
Then one day she is trapped. Within a seine net large enough to encompass twenty statues of liberty, her whole school fights for their lives as the walls close in. Some of the dolphins and sharks trapped alongside her may be thrown back and survive if they are lucky, but she and her family will be dragged on deck with hooks and slowly suffocated on blood-stained ice.
This is the life cycle of the great Atlantic bluefin tuna — the fantastic and rare animal we stuff into sushi rolls and aluminium cans. Despite the environmentally-friendly marketing, most of us have no idea where they come from. To many the word tuna means food, almost entirely dissociated from the creature.
The seafood industry has brainwashed us. It has inundated us with advertising, corrupted our scientific institutions, and made us forget the marvels of life under the sea. We must rediscover this reverence, if for no other reason than our self-interest in preserving the ecological conditions that allowed us to evolve and thrive on this planet.
Fishing and seafood corporations have long exercised a concerted public relations campaign to change the way we think of marine life. They finance research grants and media ventures to promote industry narratives — elevating “yield” above conservation, reducing fish populations to “stocks” — even the word “seafood” is a euphemism for marine wildlife trafficking. But these are notions we must be taught, for from a young age we understand the unassailable truth: marine life is wildlife.
Yet a new tide is rising. In recent years the bluefin have ridden a global oscillation in ocean currents back to the northern reaches of their ancestral domain. On land new generations of marine biologists, activist organizations, and subsistence fishing communities are coalescing to confront the greed of the fishing industry.
This entry is an introduction to a new media project that will strive to platform voices like the academic with an essay on fish intelligence for a popular audience, the environmentalist with an ocean campaign that can’t find traction in mainstream media, the Indigenous fisher with a testimony of industrial vessels ravaging their sovereign waters.
It’s time for a bold new coalition in the marine media sphere and across our blue planet. In this hour of deep desperation we must unite and rise like a mighty wave to fight back in defence of our ocean, the source of life on Earth.