Are you ready for this one?
Last week in Tokyo, a Hong Kong sushi restaurant owner paid a record $55,700 for a single bluefin tuna.
(In case you’re wondering, that’s somewhere around 6.1 million yen!!)
The record breaking fish, which was caught off the coast of Japan’s northern city of Aomori, tipped the scales at 607 pounds (about $92 per pound of flesh).
The sale took place at the first auction of the year at Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market, which is located in Central Tokyo.
According to market officials, the record price was caused by a sharp decline in world tuna supply due to tighter international controls on the catch for bluefin tuna.
At present, the Japanese eat one quarter of the world’s total supply of tuna fish each year.
As any Japanese person can tell you, tuna are also the centerpiece of the Japanese diet. Whether you’re partial to maguro (?????; tuna) or toro (????; fatty tuna belly), one thing is for certain:
Tuna are delicious.
Of course, this why bluefin tuna will most likely be extinct sometime in the next fifty years.
It’s hard to imagine a fish like tuna becoming extinct, especially since they’ve been so abundant in the world for most of recorded history. However, numbers are falling dramatically, and it’s very unlikely that the population can sustain itself for much longer.
So, are we perhaps the last generation ever to enjoy fresh sushi?
Approximately one year ago, British scientists issued a report warning that within the next fifty years, there will most likely be nothing left to fish from the sea. According to the report, nearly one-third of historical sea fisheries have already collapsed, and the rate of decline is accelerating.
The scientists, who published their findings in the journal Science, partly attributed the fishery decline to the global increase in the popularity of sushi.
Despite the demand for more tuna, bigger vessels, better nets, and new technology for spotting fish are not resulting in bigger returns. On the contrary, the global catch of blue fin tuna fell by 13% between 1994 and 2003.
Dr. Steve Palumbi, a scientist at Stanford who worked on the project, told the press: “Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood.”
Sadly, it may be to late to save the noble bluefin tuna.
However, existing bluefin tuna stocks are being plundered, with high rates of overfishing being reported by virtually every single country in the European Union.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) sets annual fishing quotas to be followed by all member countries. With that said, conservation groups are cynical of ICCAT, and are partial to calling them the International Commission to Catch All Tuna.
Whether you loved canned tuna and mayo or fresh sashimi with a splash of soy sauce, it’s probably best to just enjoy fish while they’re still around.
** All images sourced from the Wikipedia Commons project **