One Million Pounds For a Fish!

This morning I attended a natural history lecture in Cyprus presented by two marine biologists, Dr Antonis Petrou and his young assistant Vassilis. Their passion for preserving the health of the marine environment was evident – the area has been grossly overfished and the mammoth task now is to persuade the authorities to intervene and restore some balance.

Here are 3 of the quirkier things I learnt:

  • The current outlook for the bluefin tuna is gloomy due to rampant overfishing. Vast sums of money change hands in the name of this fish. Global stocks are being rapidly depleted due to strong demand for sushi; the Japanese eat 80% of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide.

A bluefin tuna caught off the shores of Japan has recently sold for just over one million pounds (around $1.76 million). The winning bidder said the price was a little higher than he expected but that he’d soon recoup his outlay by serving it up in his chain of restaurants.


  • Two trawlers off the southern coast of Cyprus plough up and down in a successful co-operation to gather fish. There is little water movement on the seabed of the Mediterranean sea and thus nutrients tend to fall naturally to the bottom and stay put. The first trawler drags a net which churns up the content on the seabed throwing nutrients up into the water above. As fish swarm in to devour this sudden food source the second trawler passes through the area thereby netting a fine catch.

The trawlers then do a 180 degree about turn and repeat the process.

  • It is by no means unknown for the perennial British favourite meal of fish and chips to contain shark instead of the expected cod or haddock! Who knew?
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  • Marian

    Yes, it’s a sad sad story about the fish in the Med. Already it’s getting harder to find any type of fish, except the occasional sardine, that is actually fished out of the sea in a traditional way. Most fish sold here are fish farmed and who knows what they give them to eat! Some years ago I used to bottle my own tuna as the fishmonger used to put aside for me a couple of baby tunas which are, of course, succulent. We didn’t know then what we know now!

    In this area they have a centuries old tradition of ‘la mattanza’ which was basically a once a year group massacre of all the netted tunas passing through the Sicilian channel which literally turned into a blood bath. Doesn’t happen anymore but it’s already too late.

    The Japanese have often been down here and paid the sort of money you mentioned to fishermen off the coast of Sicily and Calabria. During the spawning period they do have complete fishing shut downs as here another delicacy was making fish cakes out of newly hatched tiny baby fish. Millions and millions of them all in one fish cake! I really don’t hold out much hope for the future of fishing in the Med. Too much greed and get-rich-quick philosophies around.

    • KarenGuttridge

      Isn’t it sad Marian? Obviously we all have to eat but this extreme greed is unnecessary. One of the lecturers actually said that when rich companies are involved – it’s no use fighting them as they’ll always do whatever they want in the end. The key is to find a way to work with them…if remotely possible.