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Tuna Troubles

Jan. 23, 2008

Yes, tuna troubles–but for whom? For a few years now, conservation groups have been sounding the alarum bell about the collapse of bluefin tuna populations. The increasing demand for the beautiful reddish pink flesh of raw tuna in sushi bars around the world (but most notably in Japan and the U.S.) has severely depleted tuna stocks to the point that last August, the U.S. called for a complete ban on bluefin tuna fishing.

You wouldn’t know it, of course, to go into any high end sushi bar; front and center you’ll always find large slabs of the shiny raw fish. Restaurants seem to have no problem flagrantly defying the cries of the E.U., the U.S. government, and conservation groups.

A report on the front page of the New York Times today reveals there might finally be something to curb people’s appetite for the bluefin–their own personal safety. A survey of several of NYC’s sushi restaurants (most of them quite high end) revealed unhealthily high levels of mercury in the fish, above the FDA’s “action level” (which means they could have cause to pull the dangerous food off the market).

As of right now the article is the number one most-emailed article on the Times' website. Are diners finally ready to cut out tuna? Will the bluefin’s high mercury levels be the thing that saves it from extinction? Perhaps the “tuna troubles” no longer belong to the tuna, but to the eater.

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