Twenty minutes before the San Diego Tuna Harbor Dockside Market was set to open, the line was 75 people deep and starting to curl past the pier. The crowd here last Saturday didn't come for the local sand dabs or trap-caught black cod. They were bargain hunters looking to score freshly caught, whole Pacific bluefin tuna for the unbelievably low price of only $2.99 a pound.

That's less per pound for this fish — a delicacy prized for its fatty flesh, whose numbers are rapidly dwindling — than the cost of sliced turkey meat at a supermarket deli.

It's a low price that doesn't reflect the true state of Pacific bluefin: Scientists and environmentalists say the species is in deep trouble. According to population estimates, stocks of Pacific bluefin tuna are at historic lows, down 96 percent from the levels they'd be at if they weren't fished.

But commercial fishermen like David Haworth, who brought this pile of small, steely gray bluefin to market, say that assessment doesn't match up with what they're seeing in the water: a record-smashing abundance of Pacific bluefin tuna.

"Our spotter pilots that have been fishing with us for up to 40 years here say they're seeing the most bluefin they've ever seen in their lifetimes, and our government is not documenting any of it," says Haworth.

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