July 22, 2012

Sushi Lovers: Stop Ordering Tuna.

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Dear Reader,

I appreciate your mindful reading.

If my words come off as overwrought or dramatic, or even preachy, forgive me. Just don’t take it out on the tuna by skimming through this series of essays.




Part One:

I’m in love with the bluefin tuna.

But not in my sushi roll.

Some of my friends claim that bluefin is by far the tastiest raw fish of them all. I’ll take their word for it.

To me, however, a bluefin is more than a slab of red flesh on a white plate.

It’s a badass fish.

An apex predator.

I’ve long had a fascination with giant fish. I recently saw a photo of a Mekong giant catfish caught in Thailand. It is massive, like Jabba the Hut being dredged from a river. Years ago, my friend Celeste caught a halibut off the coast of Alaska, and I couldn’t stop staring at the photo of her tiny body, standing meekly, smiling, next to this enormous fish.

Likewise, I love to daydream about schools of bluefin tuna whizzing across this watery globe of ours.

The bluefin tuna is no cuddly panda.

Not many people want to be particularly close to it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want one brushing up against my leg in the ocean at night. My heart just beats more steadily knowing that it exists. It exists in a world that will forever be mysterious to me. You can’t pay for that kind of an art lesson.

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An average bluefin weighs as much as a full-grown grizzly bear.

That’s more than six feet and over 500 pounds. They’re giant torpedoes of muscle. They never stop swimming during their lifetimes. They can accelerate quickly, like a Porsche, zooming up to 43 miles per hour. They can swim vast distances. It would not be unusual for a bluefin tagged in the Bahamas to be caught off the coast of Norway. On the high end of the spectrum, bluefin have been measured at 10 feet, weighing over 1,500 pounds! They can live up to twenty years.

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Largest bluefin caught – 1496 lbs. Nova Scotia 1979 by Ken Fraser.

Since the 1980s, however, the global bluefin population has tanked.

This spectacular decline began around the time the Japanese developed a taste for toro, the fatty under belly of a bluefin, bigeye, or yellowfin tuna.

It’s not a new story.

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If you love sushi, no doubt you have indulged in toro. In Japan, toro is a delicacy of the highest order. Without toro on a menu, a sushi restaurant is not worth its salt. Undeniably, bluefin tuna is the toro king. It is the most valuable fish in Japan, where a single carcass recently sold for over half a million dollars at the Tsukiji fish market, located in central Tokyo.

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But bluefin are not merely gastronomic delights; they are predators who feed at the very top of the food chain. They consume their body weight in other fish every day, and they are prey for sharks.

They help keep ocean ecosystems in balance. The bluefins’ and other tunas’ continued existence in the wild is crucial for the health of our oceans.

Our collective sense of humanity depends on the bluefin tunas’ survival.

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Whether or not it survives, ultimately, cannot be known. But giving up bluefin tuna at a sushi restaurant is a small sacrifice. If we don’t help our fellow creatures once in awhile, what’s the point in being human?  Even if everything is ultimately doomed, does that mean a single individual cannot act with integrity and truth? We can show human decency towards the bluefin tuna by consciously choosing not to eat it.

This is Part One of a three part series.

Click here to read Part Two: Sushi Lovers: Tuna Facts You Need to Know.

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