From the beginning of the eighteenth century a whole new crisis suddenly arose in the tuna industry, with geostrategic factors playing a subsidiary role. There was no question of existing society or its institutions collapsing, nor of trade routes being completely wiped off the map. Nevertheless tuna undeniably lost its importance on the markets and in the game of power. The primary reason: catch volumes suddenly dropped dramatically, leading to reduced trade. Yields fell, causing further problems in financing this labour- and capital-intensive fishing business. There was a downward spiral, with low supply leading to market crisis. For the first time in history the realisation dawned that there was more going on than the usual problems of funding, sufficient market demand volumes and the waning power of a tuna monopoly. Something was missing from the production side of the value chains: the supply of bluefin tuna was dropping. The fishing industry found it increasingly difficult to catch tuna in quantities previously considered normal. The number of places where tuna was fished dropped due to lack of sufficient catch. One way or another, fewer tuna were swimming into the nets. Ingenious tricks were conceived to improve the catch. Models of swordfish fashioned from wood were thrown out into open sea in the hope that the tuna would be startled from its migratory route into the nets. But every inventive attempt failed. Where had the bluefin tuna got to? Were they swimming elsewhere in the sea? Were there fewer of them? (Fig. 9.1).
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