Tuna Consumption and the Search for Data

Over the course of this past week, we’ve made progress on our situated project by developing our questions and compiling extensive research. Finding raw data for analysis is an essential part of the “middle” of the hourglass that allows us to quantitatively analyze tuna fisheries in greater detail. We also hoped to find data on Japanese tuna consumption and the status of fisheries in Japan over time. The resulting graphs would be a powerful visual tool to illustrate the progression of tuna’s popularity in Japan and patterns of tuna population decline on a large scale. Since Japan is the world’s largest consumer of blue fin tuna, we also set out to find global data on how many blue fin tuna are being fished from the pacific ocean over time to draw possible comparisons to Japanese consumption.

Although I at first thought that finding data on Japanese tuna consumption, fishery development and global blue fin populations wouldn’t be too difficult, the raw data itself was actually hard to come by. Many sources listed statistics about tuna consumption and fluctuations in tuna price but none of these included where they got the data from and where one could access it. After extensive searching through Watzek library databases, I eventually found useful data on the status of Japanese fisheries via Yale’s EPI database. As described in several previous lab posts, all the numbers on the EPI (Environmental Performance Index) reflect measurements of environmental health or vitality with higher numbers indicating higher scores. Scores are based on how often and effectively certain countries meet the goals of policies enacted regarding issues of environmental health or vitality. The status of Japanese fisheries over time was found under the environmental health category, then under the subcategory of fisheries. Upon graphing this data, it is clear that fishery health in Japan has experienced significant fluctuations over the past fifty years and, as of 2010, have stagnated a bit. See the chart below:

Although the graph shown above gave us an interesting illustration of the environmental health of Japanese fisheries, we still needed data for global blue fin tuna populations and Japanese tuna consumption. After more detailed searching, we finally found useful data regarding tuna populations on the ISC website (International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean). Upon finding the amounts of tuna caught per year, I graphed the data to form the chart shown below:

Upon looking at the figure above, it is clear that tuna have been fished at a steadily increasing rate since the mid 1960’s. It is interesting to note, however that the numbers of tuna caught start to decline after peaking in the early 2000’s. Why is this the case? I wonder if this could be due to the financial crisis of 2008 or if there simply wasn’t enough tuna left to catch. I intend to keep this question in mind as I continue researching the issue. With regards to finding data on Japanese tuna consumption in particular, we are yet to find any solid raw data. The closest we’ve come is finding data on Japanese meat consumption in general. Hopefully we will come across this data as our project continues. I’m sure it will surface after greater investigation.

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