Diving into the 55-degree water, I didn't know what to expect. I was hoping to see a blue fin, a lot of bluefin tuna.
Bluefin are some of the biggest and baddest fish in the ocean. They can grow to 15 feet long, weigh over 1,000 pounds, and swim up to 50 miles per hour when pursuing prey. Like tigers or lions, they are fierce predators that play a critical role in the ecosystem.
Most people don't have the opportunity to see an animal like this in the wild. I got to, because I've teamed up with several organizations -- Nautica, an international ocean conservation group called Oceana, and GQ's Gentlemen's Fund (an initiative that encourages men to become agents of change by supporting charities important to them) -- to shoot a PSA about bluefin. I'm no marine biologist -- just an actor who loves to dive and loves the ocean. Our goal was to get close enough to film with them, and that is very hard to do, because they are so fast. You see them, and then they are just gone. It is clear why they are among the ocean's top predators.
Unfortunately, bluefin are also among our top prey these days. Too many of us love to eat them -- particularly as sushi or sashimi. To satisfy our appetite, the fishing industry has developed better and faster techniques for catching bluefin. The tuna industry has also adopted the practice of catching juveniles and "fattening" them in large pens out on the open ocean. The removal of these fish from the wild before they are able to spawn is rapidly becoming one of the biggest threats to their survival.
The end result? An ocean with fewer and fewer bluefin. This amazing creature, according to many experts, is now teetering on the edge of complete collapse.
The international group that oversees the Atlantic bluefin fishing business is about to hold its annual meeting in Paris. But this group, the International Convention to Conserve Atlantic Tunas, has too often ignored its own scientists' recommendations for setting responsible tuna quotas. An independent body commissioned to review the organization has called it "an international disgrace."
Earlier this year, several nations were calling for a total ban on fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna. ICCAT could at least follow scientists' recommendations to cut way back on bluefin fishing, allowing this incredible creature the chance to thrive.
The path ICCAT is currently on leads to the extinction of one of the great ocean predators and an uncertain future for the marine ecosystem.