Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hey Japan ... STOP IT!

Have you bought a can of tuna lately? How pissed off were you at half of the can's contents being water filler? How good did you feel watching half of the can disappear down the drain when you let the water drain off? I remember days, not so long ago, when you opened an 8 ounce can of tuna and got 7.5 ounces of tuna out of it.

What happened? Well, several reasons, but first and foremost, I blame the Japanese.

I am in no way an expert on all things Japanese. Recognizing that, I will admit that these thoughts are based upon what I have seen on TV and internet news and programming specials I've seen over the past couple of decades.

The Japanese are causing overfishing of the world's oceans, to the point of threatening the existence of multiple species. They are not doing this because their people are starving and need the food source. More than enough seafood can be obtained from our oceans to feed their population without killing off whole species.

They are doing this because of cultural appetite. There are several types of seafood that are considered delicacies. Whale meat. Shark fin soup. Bluefin tuna. Herring roe. And others.

Whaling is governed by international treaties. Japan routinely flaunts the agreements, and captures/slaughters far more whales each year than they are 'legally' allowed. Why? Not because it is needed as a food source, it is because it is a delicacy, and brings in huge profits for those who supply it.

Shark fin soup. OK, I'm no fan of sharks. But to see one captured, have its fins cut off, and then the live shark is thrown back into the sea to drown is horrible. There is no nutritional need for this. It is driven solely by the demand for this delicacy, which is supposed to give Japanese men boners.

Bluefin tuna is prized as the top type of tuna for eating raw and in sushi - in Japan. I saw one large example of the fish go for over $150,000 - FOR ONE FISH! It is no more nutritious than any other speciies of tuna. The demand is simply because it is considered a delicacy in Japan, and brings very big monty to everyone in the supply chain. Fleets hunting bluefin are all over the world, and there is a very real danger of the type being hunted into extinction very soon.

Herring roe. Fish eggs. A particular type of egg, sought after for sushi and other purposes. Millions of fish being caught and cut open for their eggs. The vast majority of the rest of the fish is wasted. Fortunately, this type of 'crop' is closely monitored, and a set amount of catch is allowed - in American coastal waters.

None of these species should be endangered. There are (or at least were) plenty of them to support the nutritional needs of Japan and every other country on earth. The overfishing is strictly to satisfy the Japanese need to gain face by consuming something special. It's not the taste that is the issue for the vast majority of these people - it is the status you receive by overpaying for something seen as the best - to show you are better than your peers.

Now, what does that have to do with my can ot tuna? Well, if the canners can make more money selling fish to Japan, and can get away with stuffing our cans full of water instead of fish, why wouldn't they?

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