Jul 20, 2010

Fort Knox of Fish

Hey friends. It's been awhile.

I apologize for my disappearance from the land of blogging. While you were desperately holding your breath in my absence, I had some big life changes. I switched jobs and cities, so to my defense I’ve been a little busy with the adjustment. Ok, it was a long adjustment. I even missed the one year anniversary of my blog. Wow. It's growing up so fast....talking, walking, and still not potty trained.
I guess what sparked me to pick it back up again was a number of angry, bewildered people who confronted me. While backing me into a corner and with tear soaked eyes, they would ask:

“What Happened?”

“You stopped?”

“Why have you forsaken meeeeee!?

Ok, no tears… But more with a tone of confused disbelief. It was a little flattering. I thought only my mom read this. She's always been a fan of my work, and thanks for the potty training mom.

Another spark to continue my second-rate writing for you was a recent NY times article (link) which is a well written synopsis of an infuriating subject I’ve been following for some time now. The disappearance of the bluefin Tuna. The bluefin is critically endangered. The Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks have dwindled 72% in the past 40 years. So endangered in fact, it has joined the list of the ‘rarest of the rare’, its name is written alongside the charismatic notables: Polar Bear, Tiger, and Giant Panda.

Have you guys ever eaten Giant Panda before? You haven't?! Ohh my gosh, it’s delicious. I know a GREAT place up the road. It’s really expensive, and they only give you like, two pieces of it. We should totally order some teriyaki California Condor wings too. Two orders of the Black Rhino please.

It’s an oh so common occurrence to find a species to be endangered from pollution or habitat loss, but it’s another thing to drive an animal to extinction because it tastes like candy. Fish candy.

Ok, that doesn’t sound good.

Bluefin tuna is the pinnacle of sushi, and the world has been in a reckless love affair with the species for decades. The texture and taste of bluefin sashimi is supposedly unmatched. The biggest proponents of the tuna are of course, the Japanese.

typical day in happy Japan
Google always delivers. I'm sure you've read this here already, but I’m a huge fan of Japan. The culture is so unique. The ancient traditions, Tokyo lifestyle, the bizarre social norms. Not to mention the people are completely bat@#$% crazy. Japan is like an amusement park filled with Asian people. They’re full of contradictions, unfortunately, even down to their food.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the tuna auctions that take place in the enormous Japanese fish markets. But have you ever heard about the stockpiling of bluefin tuna? The Japanese, knowing that they’re partaking in a dwindling resource, have been rumored to stockpiling bluefin in massive warehouse sub-zero (-60 C) freezers. 50,000-60,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna are stocked every year in warehouses for use when supply runs low or out. That much bluefin could be worth 100’s of millions, if not billions of dollars. How long would it last the country's diet? Probably a year and a half. I bet they'd have armed security detail around that frozen compound. Call it the Fort Knox of Fish.

The Japanese buy and consume 80% of the world’s bluefin tuna catch every year. If a typical sport fisherman off of the Atlantic coast would catch one, it’s immediately packed into a sarcophagus full of dry ice and on a plane to Tokyo. Spotter aircraft find fast moving schools of juvenile bluefin so tuna ranchers can corral them into floating pens out on the high seas and “grow” the fish back into port. Hook and line fisherman use electric harpoons to dispatch them instantly to avoid the fish tainting it's own meat with lactic acid.

Unfortunately, the less there are, the more valuable they become. This encourages increased illegal harvest. The risk vs. reward is more and more worth it, resulting in billions of dollars of illegal bluefin sales occuring every year. The failure of bluefin management is due to the fish's enormous range, wherein unregulated international fishing is taking place. The tuna crosses into many borders where people may not follow the regulations set by ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas).

The high seas: where the laws are more like suggestions.

for shame...stop eating


  1. Took ya long enough!!!

    Supposedly there are conspiracy theorists who believe the Japanese are deliberately trying to fish bluefin to extinction to drive up the value of their own frozen stockpile. A bit unnerving isn't it.


  2. nice article. good to see you writing again!!

  3. I've had the panda at that place...not as good as the Californian sea otter.

  4. Katie,

    Try the baby seal. It's delicious!