Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | September 23, 2009

Trouble in Tuna Town

Tuna Mascot

Tuna Mascot

As the world well knows, the Japanese love their fish.  From tiny, dried fish flakes to meaty red snapper fillets and raw, fatty tuna morsels, we do eat a lot of fish here in Japan.

Like most things in this world, this island nation’s preference for fishy delicacies has its ups and downs.  On the plus side, when I asked my doctor this summer about whether or not my diet, heavy in sea creatures, could explain why I had Shingles and a few other weird health issues this summer, he told me that I should continue doing exactly what I’m doing because it’s an ideal way to stay healthy.  Okay then.

Cold water fish like salmon and tuna not only provide protein in your diet, but also those Omega 3 fatty acids, of which many Americans now are deficient.  So, eat more fish, right?

Not so fast.  I’m sure you’ve all read about recent studies indicating the increasing levels of mercury found in fish.  One, it’s our fault (that mercury increases because of paper factories, dentistry runoff, and other industrial factors).  Two, it’s hard to understand how most people in Japan could eat so much tainted fish and still live so long with such vibrant lives.  If anyone reading this finds studies about that, please note them in the comments section!  It’s amazing to see so many older Japanese folks out and about biking, walking, dancing, and stair climbing in the subways.  They seem quite healthy, and quite content with their fishy diet.

Well, those are the human pros and cons.  What about the costs to the fishies?

Recently, one town in Japan noted for it amazing tuna harvest has risen up in support of new regulations for tuna fish…ing.  They insist that the population of these amazingly delicious fish is decreasing far too quickly to be sustainable for much longer.  Without action, the tuna we have on our sandwiches and at the local sushi counter will soon be even more (outrageously) expensive because it will be such a rare treat.

I’d like to think that by not buying as much tuna myself it would make some sort of impact, but it really doesn’t.  We do need new laws and we do need to respect these dwindling populations of fish or we really will lose them after all.  Here are two fascinating articles about fish.  The first is about that “tuna town” and their fight for regulation.  The second is about the difficulty of big chains like Mickie D’s and Long John Silver’s trying to find a decent whitefish out there for your filet o’ fish sandwich.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tuna Town (Oma)

The Ugliest (and tastiest) fish you probably just ate on that fish sandwich



  1. It makes me think of the stories of how lobster was considered a poor man’s food back in the turn of the century. Due to its abundance on the East Coast, it was easily caught and cheap to feed the workers. Even in Japan, sushi wasn’t considered high-end cuisine; it was simple working class food. Time passed and people placed new value on these edibles, creating a demand that has taxed the resources. Maybe it’s just about finding new delicious things to enjoy, so we learn to just eat a little of everything, not only one thing.

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