food

Sushi alert: Grim outlook for bluefin tuna

46 Comments
By ELAINE KURTENBACH

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46 Comments
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"...an international trade ban or complete fishing moratorium"

That could well be presented as yet another "attack on our culture" by uncomprehending foreigners. Though I believe there are plenty of blue fin in the freezers of a certain trading company ready to cash in. This is another environmental crime, which has been perpetrated for years, with only token remedial efforts.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

If the population of Pacific bluefins drops much further, it may no longer be economically feasible to fish for them.

Or in Japan-speak, no longer feasible for anyone but Japanese to fish for them! It's our culture!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Still, the supermarket shelves in Japan are amply stocked with bluefin, albeit at higher prices than in decades past. There has been no attempt to reduce the catch.

But I have noticed that the slices of maguro on nigiri sushi at revolving sushi places has been getting increasingly thinner over the years, now to the point where sometimes it is nearly paper thin.

When it comes right down to it, any debate with your average Taro for imposing a fishing moratorium are sadly met with the not very persuasive counterarguments "it's an attack on our culture (which trumps all environmental concerns)" (as @Moonraker said), and "but I like bluefin, it's delicious (therefore we should be able to keep fishing it to extinction)."

6 ( +9 / -3 )

When it's no longer there, they'll be eating something else....

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japan just doesn't care, technology isn't going to fix this.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

The average Taro just doesn't care. As others have mentioned, Japanese will always see it as their cultural right to eat tuna. Change begins with first acknowlegding the problem, then education. Neither of which will happen, of course.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I think most people here just don't damn about this and just want to eat the stuff to their heart's content. I know that a lot of the younger generation in Hong Kong are now no longer eating shark's fin (mainland China is another story) because they realize what effect it's having on the shark population and the cruelty involved. There just seems to be less awareness and less sympathy here when it comes to the welfare or endangerment of animals.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

and Japan wants the right to hunt whales all the while protecting the species, blue fin is a perfect example of where that venture will end up also.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or in Japan-speak, no longer feasible for anyone but Japanese to fish for them! It's our culture!

Well if they catching the legit -like on Nat. Geographic's "Wicked Tuna" tv program -then they're good to go.

. . . .but if these poor Tuna are herded by the hundreds in some obscure "cove" and savagely slaughtered with spears and knives (until the water in the entire cove is blood-red) then this a terrible thing. Like the fate of those poor dolphins.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Well, market forces should rectify this situation eventually. When it becomes "economically unfeasible" to fish for them, obviously the price for tuna maguro would soar which would put most people off it, which would lead to lower catches and higher fish populations. And then the cycle would start over again. This would in theory be a sustainable cycle.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

but japan has farm raised tuna so they can corner the market.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Way to go Japan..................not!

I stopped eating tuna around 10yrs ago, what disgusts me most is how people GORGE on the stuff.

When I first washed up on these isles tuna was a treat once in a while, now joints will serve up plates 10+ pieces of nigiri sushi or mounds of sashimi & people quaff it & seem oblivious to the damage they do

Shoganai ne...........

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Good thing my favorite sushi fish is salmon :)

The same thing is happening in the USA with many of the popular fish, BUT good things are coming of this. People are catching and cooking fish that was often overlooked. Chefs and cooks are getting creative. Ten years ago no one was selling trigger fish. Now its selling out. Maybe Japan will start eating stuff like catfish which they treat as garbage, but where I come from, its better than fried chicken!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

as soon as Tuna is gone, they'll just move on to the next species to exterminate, just like they did with Japanese unagi. Also, "economic unfeasability" has never stopped the Japanese when their pride is on the line, as can be seen with whales and dolphins.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sadly almost all fish whether from oceans, streams, lakes is contaminated with mercury and other toxins. A high percentage of all human exposure to mercury comes from eating fish. A percentage of that from contaminated Pacific tuna alone. Even in small amounts mercury can lead to permanent developmental effects. It really is scary because my mother had mercury poisoning from eating a lot of fish. Mercury is damaging to your central nervous system and can cause psychological, neurological, and immunological problem. However I'm a fish lover and eat several serving of fish weekly because it contains the omega-3 fats known to lower risk of heart disease and benefits the brain.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

what a load of crock from the usual j-bashers. can anyone show me a link or a quote from j-people who have said eating tuna is their cultural right? i think you've drunk too much of the kool-aid and are conflating the issue of whaling, which you only hear from politicians and people in the fishing industry, not the japanese public, per se.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japanese eat about 80% of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide

That's odd - I was chatting to some Japanese folk recently and they were adamant this near-extinction is "the fault of the Chinese"! Same deal with Unagi.

I am pessimistic there will be any sensible regulation, or any change. Loopholes to fish Bluefin to extinction would still be found. The self-entitled generation of old men that exclusively control Japan think only of themselves, their "cultural right" to eat whatever they damn want, and could not give a rats about future generations - or anyone outside of Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

There's a glutton in the market.

Japan just doesn't care, technology isn't going to fix this.

They'll figure out how to grow it in a test tube.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is a fine example of the shimagunikonjo. Most people are not aware of, and/or do not care where the fish comes from, or such foreign concepts like sustainability. Look around you. Most people want to eat what they want, when they want. They want to spend money on what they want, whenever it suits them. The idea of having a konbini every 100 meters illustrate this as well. No way that is sustainable.

Time to stop trading with bluefin. Let the Japanese eat their local Fukushima delicacies.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well, market forces should rectify this situation eventually. When it becomes "economically unfeasible" to fish for them, obviously the price for tuna maguro would soar which would put most people off it, which would lead to lower catches and higher fish populations. And then the cycle would start over again. This would in theory be a sustainable cycle.

Your crucial concept here is "most people". There will always be someone ostentatious and rich enough to eat the last tuna. And given the price he or she will pay there will always be someone who will catch it for him or her.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How long until someone starts dyeing cod or some other bland white fish red? Just like that the fake crab meat...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Good thing my favorite sushi fish is salmon :)

Which has absolutely nothing to do with Japan either. You can thank Norway for Japanese loving salmon now a days.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Yubaru yeah and salmon can be farm raised in a pinch.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"...shows the current population of bluefin tuna is estimated at 2.6% of its “unfished” size. "

I can hear our Republicans friends already:

Sure, Sure. The population may be that low, but can you prove its man made...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Sure, Sure. The population may be that low, but can you prove its man made...

Well after all, the population was this size one other time in history too. So it can't be man made.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese need to embrace the yam soon or else there will be no fish left

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They will eat it into extinction...much as they are doing with shirasu.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Which of the sushi chains has the plums to stop selling tuna?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan will still be eating more because they are swayed by TV doctors urging them to eat tuna for its Omega 3s, despite tuna's high mercury levels. I have not seen one expert on TV that has voiced concern over the overfishing of tuna, obviously because it does not make for a good TV show.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wow. Japanese government is leading other governments in the world for regulation of tuna fishing in the Pacific. Such real effort is totally ignored in the article.

Yet, a marginal group called "Global Tuna Conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts", which nobody ever heard of, gets unfair attention as if the group is making any real difference.

Japanese eat about 80% of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and stocks of all three bluefin species — the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic — have fallen over the past 15 years as demand for the luscious, buttery pink-to-red fleshed fish has soared globally.

I know, I read this quote all the time. But I could never find the source of this quote. Does anyone know where it comes from? Tuna is eaten world wide. 80% is bit weird to believe without veriffying.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When it's no longer there, they'll be eating something else....

the locust attitude. been there, ate everything and move to the next field.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I know, I read this quote all the time. But I could never find the source of this quote. Does anyone know where it comes from? Tuna is eaten world wide. 80% is bit weird to believe without veriffying.

Tuna is eaten world wide, but the type used in canned tuna is Albacore, Skipjack, and smaller varieties of tuna which are more abundant. The tuna used for sashimi and sushi is bluefin, yellow tail, and much larger varieties. I don't know where the numbers come from, but living in Japan, it's not hard to believe that Japan is hands down the number one consumer despite the recent popularity of sushi worldwide.

As far as the Japanese government leading the world in regulation, it means absolutely nothing if they, the media, and sushi chefs and restaurants do nothing to educate consumers and discourage consumption. As long as there's a high demand, fisherman throughout the world will continue to catch and sell them to Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Correction to my previous post. Yellow tail is actually a smaller variety of fish and used to be considered inferior for sashimi, but is being used increasingly as alternatives are becoming scarce.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

MrBumAPR. 22, 2016 - 11:53AM JST

I don't know where the numbers come from, but living in Japan, it's not hard to believe that Japan is hands down the number one consumer despite the recent popularity of sushi worldwide.

We do not know the numbers. So, we cannot say for sure.

These days, precious blue fin tuna are grown after being caught before consumption. Caught blue fin tuna are put in huge cages in the sea, grown to be 3 or 4 times as heavy as they were when caught, and harvested.

So, when we calculate "the amount of tuna consumed / the amount of tuna caught", the number will be somewhere around 300% to 400%. My guess is that the ratio of Japanese consumption of blue fin tuna to world catch of blue fin tune may be 80%, the ratio of Japanese consumption of blue fin tuna to world consumption of blue fin tuna is a lot lower than that.

As long as we have no data, we can only guess, though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

CH3CHO,

I'm a little confused with your numbers. Are you implying that the blue fin grown before harvest don't count as being caught? If you count them (as you should since they're caught before they're fattened up), shouldn't the "the amount of tuna consumed / the amount of tuna caught" equal 100%?

If you're talking about actual volumes of meat, I really doubt that's how the calculations are done. Based on the wording, I'm sure they just look at total catches and where they go. It's a lot easier to look at numbers of tuna than volumes of meat.

Again I don't know for sure, but I don't find the 80% number hard to believe at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MrBumAPR. 22, 2016 - 02:56PM JST

I'm a little confused with your numbers. Are you implying that the blue fin grown before harvest don't count as being caught? If you count them (as you should since they're caught before they're fattened up), shouldn't the "the amount of tuna consumed / the amount of tuna caught" equal 100%?

Tuna farming http://www.bbc.co.uk/oceans/locations/mediterranean/tuna.shtml

If a tuna caught weighed 10 kg and was raised to 40 kg for consumption, the ratio of consumption to catch is 400%. This is comparing apples and oranges, and I suspect the media is just playing that game. They should compare consumption to consumption.

Look at the quote.

Japanese eat about 80% of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide,

80% is the ratio of consumption to catch, and I feel some uneasiness. What is the ratio of Japanese consumption to the world consumption? If the tuna are raised 3 times, the ratio of Japanese consumption to the world consumption would be 27 %, which would be a reasonable number.

Though I cannot say for sure unless the data is presented.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

CH3CHO

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/09/fisheries-group-cut-pacific-bluefin-tuna-catch

This article's wording is a bit clearer.

"Miyahara says that 80% of all captured bluefin tuna—prized for sushi—end up in Japan."

That's a Japanese adviser to the ministry of agriculture speaking, and I don't see why he'd exclude "raised" tuna from the total catch. And if he is, do you think their numbers would be much different?

It seems the government is actually trying to make a difference on the supply side, but I really don't see them or the rest of Japan doing anything about the demand.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/japan-endangered-bluefin-tuna-sold-80000-tokyo-fish-market-auction-1536042

According to WWF, demand for giant bluefin tuna in the Japanese market started building in the 1970s. Japan, which consumes 40% of global bluefin landings, is paying high prices for this fish, which is a highly sought-after delicacy for sushi and sashimi dishes in the country.

WWF says it is just 40%.

For both numbers to be correct, there should be twice as much landings of blue fin tuna as catching. The difference is most likely to be explained by farming of caught blue fin tuna.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Weird... I wonder why a Japanese official would use the inflated number. Either way, regulating catches is great, but if people are willing to pay high prices, those blue fin are going to get caught and sold by whatever (illegal) means. Every country including Japan should do something to educate consumers at the same time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the Tuna's fault that it's so yummy ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I actually had the "it's our culture" argument with a guy the other day when we were talking about Tsukiji market and tuna and what not, and the demise of the blue fin. The old guy actually said, and truly believes, that "it is only endangered because other people want to eat it when they have NO right. It is OUR culture!" (and yes, he emphasised those words several times. I pointed out that Japanese culture doesn't include the Mediterranean and he said it does if there are tuna there, and others only have a right to fish there if exporting to Japan (he also added that it's THEIR fault if illegal fishing occurs!).

He got pretty darn mad every time I showed him the folly of his logic, but eventually just said, sure enough, I was attacking Japan and should leave, and he literally got up and walked away. I couldn't help myself, I laughed at him... which almost straightened his back for a second.

Sorry, but the guy deserved it. The sad part is that many people think like him -- that Japan is entitled to the world's fish, and any laws put in place to try and preserve them is an attack on the culture and traditions of Japan; that it's not them, it's OTHERS overfishing and breaking the law, and when you point out it's for export to Japan they forget what they just said and repeat the earlier, "Well, tuna is ours!".

They don't care if tuna go extinct, so long as they get some. They WILL care later, and blame everyone else, but for now they are also just eating away as usual and overfishing, or support it through imports, because some are banking on farmed tuna to save their dietary ways.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have wondered since the 2011 Tsunami, how safe it is to eat fish, particularly Tuna, which were breeding just off of Japan at that time. I live in Scotland, the little island east of America,better known as the UK, but North of London. Can we believe our scientists who tell us it is safe to eat fish? I love my cat and he loves tuna. Thoughts please people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It might be wise to end all fishing of tuna fr a few years and let them recover. Over in Chile there are tons of dead fish washing ashore, because of the warming of the oceans so fish, and whales are under great stress and then there is the pollution as well. There is plenty of pirate fishing and even fishing using slave workers. It is time to crack down on over fishing, or there will be no fish to catch. If the oceans die, we die with them. Just recently the scientists discovered that 90% of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has bleached and died.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For fish farming in Japan here are the numbers.

http://www.jfa.maff.go.jp/j/press/saibai/140331.html

Looks as if catching small fries and breeding them to become larger is going down while buying them from Kindai and others who artificially cultivate from eggs are on the rise. Total amount from shipped from these fish farms are 611K fishes(347K natural, 264K artificial) at 10,396 metric tonnes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just watched the Telly and they showed overseas tourists by the hundreds lining up for Bluefin Tuna and similar delicacies in Tsukiji.

All said it was tasty and they want more.

That much for the fable that 80% is consumed by Japan, traded maybe like Shark-Fin in Hong Kong.

Still have to meet Japanese that can afford Blue Fin Tuna except for the rare occasion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of our favorite TV shows is Wicked Tune. 5 or 6 boats out of New England fishing for Blue Fin. All are sent to Japan. Takes hours to haul one in. In japan, they send a tazer down the line and taze the fish. I was a little shocked by this practice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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