GLAND, Switzerland, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The sharp knives of sushi chefs and the hungry mouths of sashimi lovers have helped drive the bluefin tuna to the brink of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently moved the species onto the "vulnerable" Red List -- reserved for the more than 22,413 species currently threatened with extinction.
The conservation group estimates that the world's global bluefin population has declined by as much a one third over the last 20-plus years.
"The Pacific bluefin tuna market value continues to rise," Bruce Collette, who chairs the IUCN Species Survival Commission Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group, said in a press release Monday. "Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term."
The bluefin is one of a few species specifically threatened by the mounting pressures of global food markets. Also added to the red list were two other popular sushi proteins, the American eel and Japanese eel.
These swimmers were joined on the Red List by a variety of other less gastronomically relevant species -- including world's largest giant earwig (at over three inches in length) and the black grass-dart butterfly -- threatened not by fishing and hunting pressures but by habitat loss.
Officials reminded skeptics it would be wrong to sneer at the significance of the less visible species like the an earwig or butterfly.
"These are important parts of the planet, our common biodiversity," Australia's Environment Minister Greg Hunt told ABC Science. "We have fought against whaling, we have sought to protect the most iconic of the world's large species, but the small ones matter as well."