Saturday, September 26, 2009

But what will become of sushi night?!

Sure, sure, so many people say they’re sushi snobs and that if they vouch for this restaurant, its because their sushi is so very fresh. While I can’t say that I am a sushi snob, I am a sushi aficionado and grew up at the sushi bar – well, except for all the times that snobby owners thought little kids couldn’t enjoy real sushi so they sat our family at a table. Whether it’s the scrapes leftover to make a spicy tuna roll, a nice piece of tuna, or a delectable meaty slice of toro, tuna is clearly the sushi staple.

Sadly, commercial overfishing has led to the endangerment of giant blue fin tunas. Earlier this summer celebrities attempted to boycott famed Nobu restaurants for serving the endangered fish. [Daily Mail] Small Japanese towns that had wanted stricter regulation on fishing are now worried that their town’s appeal and revenue are in jeopardy. Unfortunately, as is the case with any commercial overfishing example (including the fish used to make McDonald's filet-o-fish sandwiches!) regulating the fishing in international waters is a difficult task, to say the least. [Serious Eats] As Masayuki Komatsu, an expert on the fishing industry at Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, stated to the NYTimes, “there are too many entrenched interests whose objective is maximizing profit, not sustainable use.” This seems to illustrate oh-too-common reason our ecosystems are in trouble today. The EU earlier this week failed to decide to protect the endangered species. [Huffington Post] Whether it is politics, wealthy legislators enjoying their own slices of blue fin tuna, or the difficulties in regulating the international waters even if the crowd pleasing fish were placed on a protective list, overfishing is a problem here to stay.

Alas, as for the tuna eaters, so long as sushi prices don’t sky rocket, I’m afraid we, myself included, likely will continue to eat our beloved tuna – over soy sauced. At least we'll have our sake bombs? Gombei!

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  1. Hi Ann!

    I had read about this threat to fishing staples (yes, I'll admit, via news on the Filet-o-Fish), but was kind of shocked there weren't protocols to better protect the issue.

    I am unclear on the law surrounding international waters, but thought the UN might have put something out on the matter (Yeah - UN on the brain ... I got caught in the traffic this week in Midtown - bleh). Anyway: found reference to a UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which apparently has three Articles (61, 62, 65) to prevent over-fishing. Each article lays heavy responsibility on coastal states, and does not really address the matter of international waters (or on first review, it doesn't appear to). I did a cursory run-down to check enforcement, but it appears the Convention does not directly tie to the UN, but rather is delegated to third party groups (ie, International Maritime Org, or the International Whaling Commission).

    Apart from raising prices to reduce demand to what is the depressed supply, are there alternative propositions out there?

    Have a good weekend!! Sls.

  2. Hello Steph!

    Thank you for your thoughts! You know, even if the blue fin tuna was placed on the endangered species list, I believe there would still be difficulties in finding out how to regulate the fishing, whether its prohibiting the importation of such fish or enforcing the prohibition of fish. The case name escape my mind at this moment, but there was a case requiring certain nets for the shrimp industry to avoid trapping sea turtles who are endangered. Unfortunately, due to politics and other details, agreements that the US had made with foreign countries on the new netting were found to be discriminatory, and therefore, unenforceable...


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