Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Richard Ellis, Ph.D

American Museum of Natural History

Tuna: A Love Story

Wednesday - October 22, 2008

Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.

The big-game fisherman sees the bluefin tuna as a sleek and powerful opponent; to the harpooner it is an iridescent shadow below the surface, flicking its scythe-like tail to propel it out of range; the purse-seiner sees a churning maelstrom of silver and blue bodies to be hauled on deck; the longliner sees a dead fish, hauled up along with other glistening marine creatures; the tuna rancher sees the bluefin as an anonymous creature to be force-fed until it is time to drive a spike into its brain; the auctioneer at Tsukiji sees row upon row of tailless, ice-rimed, tuna-shaped blocks; Japanese consumers see it as toro, a slice of rich red meat, to be eaten with wasabi and soy sauce; to the biologist the tuna is a marvel of hydrodynamic engineering, its body packed with modifications that enable it to out-eat, out-grow, out-swim, out-dive, and out-migrate any other fish in the sea; and to those who would rescue Thunnus thynnus from the oblivion of extinction, it has to be seen as a domesticated animal, like a sheep or a cow. For some, such a shift is almost impossible; the bluefin tuna, the quintessential ocean ranger, the wildest, fastest, most powerful fish in the sea, cannot be – and probably should not be – tamed. But if it isn’t, we will only be able to say that we loved the tuna not wisely, but too well.


Next: October 29 - Peter Swarzenski, Ph.D.