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Red Gold

The Managed Extinction of the Giant Bluefin Tuna

2020
Author:

Jennifer E. Telesca

Red Gold

Illuminating the conditions for global governance that have precipitated the devastating decline of one of the ocean’s most majestic creatures


Red Gold offers unparalleled access to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, showing that the institution has faithfully executed the task assigned it by international law: to fish as hard as possible to grow national economies. ICCAT manages the bluefin not to protect them but to secure export markets for commodity empires—and is complicit in their extermination.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is the world’s foremost organization for managing and conserving tunas, seabirds, turtles, and sharks traversing international waters. Founded by treaty in 1969, ICCAT stewards what has become under its tenure one of the planet’s most prominent endangered fish: the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Called “red gold” by industry insiders for the exorbitant price her ruby-colored flesh commands in the sushi economy, the giant bluefin tuna has crashed in size and number under ICCAT’s custodianship.

 

With regulations to conserve these sea creatures in place for half a century, why have so many big bluefin tuna vanished from the Atlantic? In Red Gold, Jennifer E. Telesca offers unparalleled access to ICCAT to show that the institution has faithfully executed the task assigned it by international law: to fish as hard as possible to grow national economies. ICCAT manages the bluefin not to protect them but to secure export markets for commodity empires—and, as a result, has become complicit in their extermination.

 

The decades of regulating fish as commodities have had disastrous consequences. Amid the planet’s sixth mass extinction of a major species—threatening life as we know it—Red Goldreacquaints the reader with the splendors of the giant bluefin tuna through vignettes that defy technoscientific and market rationales. Ultimately, this book shows, changing the way people value marine life must come not only from reforming ICCAT but from transforming the dominant culture that consents to this slaughter.

Red Gold

Jennifer E. Telesca is assistant professor of environmental justice in the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in New York.


Red Gold

Contents


List of Abbreviations


Prologue: A Biography of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna


Introduction: Predatory Regimes of Value


1. In the Realm of Commodity Empires


2. The Power of Law in Process


3. “Save Bluefin Tuna Now!”


4. Science as Alibi


5. The Libyan Caper


Conclusion: “Chasing Phantoms”


Acknowledgments


Appendix A: List of Contracting Parties to the ICCAT Convention, 1967–2012


Appendix B: Allocations in Export Quotas for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna


Appendix C: ICCAT Organigram


Notes


Bibliography


Index