Steven Adolf


Opkomst en ondergang van een wereldvis

Rise and fall of a global fish

Giant Tuna tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of one of the world’s most remarkable fish, which first put its stamp on Western civilization in ancient times. The bluefin tuna is a living myth, a metallic- looking torpedo that can grow to over three meters and weigh hundreds of kilos.

It is one of the fastest fishes on earth. After travelling thousands of kilometres across the oceans, great shoals arrive in the Straits of Gibraltar every spring to reproduce in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

People have awaited its arrival since prehistoric times, to catch it for its juicy red flesh. Centuries ago a Spanish monk warned that overfishing would bring about the tuna’s demise and ever since the end of the twentieth century, when the Japanese discovered the bluefin tuna as the ultimate ingredient for their sushi, his sombre prediction has seemed to be coming true. In a collective act of plunder, the world population of giant tuna has been all but wiped out in less than ten years.

Steven Adolf looks at the significance of giant tuna across the centuries, from Phoenician rule in the western Mediterranean, the Roman tuna industry and the Spanish ‘tuna aristocracy’ of the beaches around Gibraltar to its mysterious disappearance from the North Sea. Now the bluefin tuna is playing a tragic key role one last time, by symbolizing the destruction of the marine environment. A high-tech fishing fleet, mostly of European manufacture, is fishing tuna out of the Mediterranean with lethal efficiency. Trade on the Japanese market, worth hundreds of millions of euro, has become a race to catch as much tuna as possible as quickly as possible. The hunt for the last of the tuna amounts to the looting of our biological and cultural heritage, complete with fraud and a flourishing black market, which Europe has shown little willingness to combat.

Giant Tuna combines the little known story of a global fish with a gripping documentary about the dramatic consequences of the globalisation of fisheries. The first generation to become familiar with the underwater environment, through documentaries by Jacques Cousteau, is now watching its irreplaceable riches run out. A victim of our inability to manage the seas sustainably, the bluefin tuna threatens to disappear for ever from our waters, our nets and our kitchens.

  • Cultural-historical, biological and economic biography of a fish in the tradition of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod
  • The black market in tuna explained, from the tuna mafia to tuna spies and tuna police
  • An indictment of short-term thinking by fishermen and fishmongers, politicians, governments and Japanese conglomerates, in the style of the film The End of the Line

The story of the giant tuna illustrates the breathtaking underwater decline taking place all over the world. Adolf dishes it up with great versatility. With the help of excellent sources and agreeably intractable interviewees he has brought many captivating facts to the surface.

NRC Handelsblad

Giant Tuna is an indictment of mankind’s inability to know when to stop.

De Volkskrant


Steven Adolf

Steven Adolf is a correspondent in Spain, Portugal and Morocco for NRC Handelsblad, Elsevier and De Standaard and for various radio and television companies. He is the author of the bestselling Behind the Scenes in Spain (2001) and Behind the Scenes in Morocco (2005).…

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Reuzentonijn. Opkomst en ondergang van een wereldvis (2009). Non-fictie, 272 pagina's.
Aantal woorden: 75.000

With illustrations in black-and-white and references



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