human-animal interactions

For us two-legged, land-walking, air-breathing brutes, it’s all too easy to
overlook ocean life. I know I have. In all my years chowing down on spicy
tuna rolls, I had never—not once—stopped to consider the animal on my
plate. But standing in the Tuna Research and Conservation Center (TRCC) in
Monterey, California, it’s all I can think about. The center, jointly operated by
Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is essentially a big
warehouse, and most of the floor space is taken up by three large round tanks.
Resembling enormous kiddie pools, they are filled with 150,000 gallons of
seawater and dozens of bluefin tuna.
It’s no wonder I’ve got Japanese food on my mind. Bluefin have a bright
pink flesh that is highly coveted for sushi and sashimi, and the fish can fetch
staggering sums. (In 2012, a 593-pound specimen sold for $736,000 at a
Tokyo fish market—more than $1,200 a pound.) This is the first time I’ve
seen living bluefin, and they are magnificent animals, beefy and muscular,
and yet, somehow, lithe. Silver and glistening, they look like enormous
bullets. They thrash their tails back and forth with such energy that their tanks
quake, and choppy waves travel across the water’s surface.
These big bruisers are just babies, two and three years old; bluefin can live
for thirty years and grow to be thirteen feet long and 2,000 pounds. They are
strong and fast, able to reach speeds of 45 miles per hour and traverse entire
oceans in a matter of weeks. (Tuna have huge geographic ranges, spending
time everywhere from South America to Norway). Their fins retract, giving
them exceedingly streamlined bodies, and they are warm-blooded, which
makes them oddities in the fish world but keeps them toasty as they cruise
through icy waters.