Monday, June 25, 2007

Sushi Nation

I'd never had sushi before I was in college. Now, sushi today is as ubiquitous as a good steak. But today the NYTimes reported that one of sushi's essential ingredients -- bluefin tuna -- is overfished and sushi chefs are experiencing shortages.
The problem is the growing appetite for sushi and sashimi outside Japan, not only in the United States but also in countries with new wealth, like Russia, South Korea and China. And the problem will not go away. Fishing experts say that the shortages and rising prices will only become more severe as the population of bluefin tuna — the big, slow-maturing type most favored in sushi — fails to keep up with worldwide demand.

Last year, dozens of nations responded by agreeing to reduce annual tuna catches in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans by 20 percent in an effort to stabilize populations. But the decision only seemed to crystallize growing fears in Japan about tuna shortages, helping to push up prices of the three species of bluefin — northern, Pacific and southern — that are considered the best tuna to eat raw.

Now, sushi chefs are contemplating using mammalian raw meat to meet the needs of this popular entree. Recent articles like Nick Tosches' in Vanity Fair and Sasha Issenberg's book The Sushi Economy have brought attention to the fact that when the whole world consumes vast amounts of a natural resource, there's trouble.

The thing about sushi is that it was nonexistent in America before the mid-70s. Over the years, it has become more and more popular. Now, there isn't enough natural supply to keep up with the demand. But how do you convince people to stop eating sushi? How do you convince a profitable industry to preserve the natural stock of fish? Keeping in mind that the fishing industry is extremely hard to regulate. There's just a lot of ocean, and not nearly the means to supervise it all. Any kind of regulation on the market portion would likely cause a burgeoning black market -- totally unregulated and at high risk of being unsafe for consumption. It sounds like the Times is right, and sushi chefs will have to start experimenting with other kinds of meat, and bluefin tuna will become part of a "premium" line of sushi, available at the top-of-the line sushi restaurants.

But this is the problem with globalized or nationalized culture, right? Things are no longer special or regional. You can get the same things everywhere.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...