Whenever a situation changes some business somewhere will probably find a way to benefit from it.  A company within the Mitsubishi conglomerate seems to be onto a winner by cornering the market in bluefin tuna, buying 40% of current (vastly unsustainable) supply.  They are then freezing much of this stock at -60° allowing it to be stored for several years and released onto the market at a future date.

 The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was formed in 1969 when stocks of Atlantic bluefin were abundant.  It is little wonder that their failure over the last 40 years (bluefin stocks are 10% of their levels in the 1970s) to limit bluefin catch at sustainable levels has caused many in conservation and fisheries science circles to say that ICCAT really stands for the “International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna”.

Bluefin tuna has evolved to be a highly efficient predator.  Their circulatory system can increase their blood temperature to increase the efficiency of their core muscles providing them with outstanding acceleration and a top speed of 45mph.  They have one of the highest hemoglobin counts per unit of blood of any fish allowing rapid delivery of oxygen to their muscles.  A human analogy would be a Tour de France rider using EPO.  The only downside of evolving such an incredible combination of circulatory and muscular systems is that it makes the bluefin one of the tastiest fishes around and a key ingredient of many types of sushi.

Tunas are becoming incredibly valuable.  Last year a 276 Kg fish sold for $55,700 (that’s about $200 a kilo!). Mitsubishi claim only to be freezing to maintain year round supply, however they have a clear incentive to build up a stockpile, under either of the two possible tuna population scenarios:

Scenario 1

The ICCAT heeds its scientists and implements a total ban on bluefin tuna (hopefully in time to prevent population collapse).  Supply of bluefin entering the market stops leaving Mitsubishi with a monopoly supply of a highly valuable fish.  Prices climb to astronomical heights.  Mitsubishi make a killing.

Scenario 2

The ICCAT ignores its scientists and allows bluefin tuna to be fished to extinction.  Supply of bluefin entering the market stops leaving Mitsubishi with a monopoly supply of a highly valuable fish.  Prices climb to astronomical heights.  Mitsubishi make a killing (twice).

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