Eating Wicked Tuna: A marine scientist tries to figure out what the heck is going on

Édouard Manet, Fish (Still Life), via Feasting on Art

When I wrote about Wicked Tuna, the National Geographic channel’s Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing reality show (first aired Sunday night), I thought it would be pretty straightforward. Every rating system – Seafood Watch, Sea Choice, Blue Ocean Institute – lists Atlantic bluefin as an “Avoid.” A look through the scientific literature – though I am not a tuna or fisheries expert – showed a vast gap between the fisheries literature, which focuses on bluefin population structure , and the conservation literature, which is trying to sound the alarm about bluefin’s decline. Frankly, I didn’t think it would be terribly controversial to argue that a purportedly conservation-focused organization like National Geographic shouldn’t encourage consumption of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

So I was pretty surprised when two very different scientists, Lee Crockett, Director of Federal Fisheries Policy at the Pew Environment Group and Dr. Molly Lutcavage, Director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at U Mass-Amherst disagreed with my perspective. (I was offered a chance to talk with Crockett about bluefin before the post went up, but the scheduling didn’t work out until afterwards. Dr. Lutcavage reached out to DSN in response to the post.) Both of these tuna experts believe that Wicked Tuna is good publicity for the Atlantic bluefin.