“I am a sushi lover– it tastes amazing. As American diets have evolved over the years and we become more exposed to cuisines over the world, people have turned to Japanese cuisine. It is very healthy, and people were looking at alternatives to beef, pork, chicken and found tuna in the form of sushi which is very healthy, different and much lighter. As a sushi lover, once you’ve had it, it’s hard to turn away from it and that is part of the problem. When you speak of cows, chickens etc., these things are farmed and then eventually sent into the food chain. With the Blue Fin Tuna you cannot hatch them, which means that whatever we eat comes from the wild so there is no replenishing of the tuna. We keep taking and taking, and part of that is because the Blue Fin Tuna is such a complex animal that we have yet to figure out how to raise properly.” _Adam Yamaguchi
Adam Yamaguchi: Current TV’s Vanguard-Sushi to the Slaughter
Asian-American television correspondent | Executive producer at Current TV
By: Judith Wallace
Adam Yamaguchi is an Asian-American reporter and an avid sushi lover. His love for sushi led him to investigate the endangerment of one of his favorite fishes the Blue Fin Tuna. This investigation spanned across oceans all the way to Japan where he learned some pretty interesting things about the potential demise of the Blue Fin Tuna. Premier Guide Media caught up with him where he gave us an insight of what is happening with this species.
Current TV Vanguard: “Sushi to the Slaughter”
Premiering Tuesday July 12 at 9:00 PM ET
Adam Yamaguchi, a ravenous sushi consumer since childhood, investigates what some warn is the impending extinction of the Bluefin Tuna – the premier delicacy in sushi circles. Adam, a Japanese-American, is forced to confront the same moral and practical dilemma now facing the tens of millions in his ancestral homeland who are responsible for 80% of the world’s sushi consumption: Give up Bluefin, at least for now? Or risk losing it for good?
Your latest documentary is about the potential demise of the Blue Fin Tuna. Would you like to speak on that?
Adam Yamaguchi: So the Blue Fin Tuna is one of the largest, and in terms of ecology is one of the most important fish in the sea. When you talk about sushi the majority of that is raw tuna, and most of that tuna comes from the Blue Fin. There are a number of species of Tuna but the primary tuna you are talking about is the Blue Fin Tuna. In certain parts of the atlantic ocean we are on the verge of seeing the population collapse in large part because of the exploding market for sushi. Sushi had been the cuisine for one medium size country, and what we have seen in 20 thirty years is an explosion in the popularity of it. That is how I came across the story. As you will see in the piece, when I was a kid I grew up as the only Japanese America in my high school and elementary school. I was the only one who was eating sushi. The kids used to tease me and say that is so gross. And just in a half generation time, sushi has become this global cuisine. Here in Los Angles you can find multiple sushi restaurants on every block. So it sort of peaked a little curiosity in me which I thought this clearly has an impact if this many more people are eating fish. And it turns out it is having quite an impact.
What sparked this sushi explosion?
Adam Yamaguchi: I am a sushi lover– it tastes amazing. As American diets have evolved over the years and we become more exposed to cuisines over the world, people have turned to Japanese cuisine. It is very healthy, and people were looking at alternatives to beef, pork, chicken and found tuna in the form of sushi which is very healthy, different and much lighter. As a sushi lover, once you’ve had it, it’s hard to turn away from it and that is part of the problem. When you speak of cows, chickens etc., these things are farmed and then eventually sent into the food chain. With the Blue Fin Tuna you cannot hatch them, which means that whatever we eat comes from the wild so there is no replenishing of the tuna. We keep taking and taking, and part of that is because the Blue Fin Tuna is such a complex animal that we have yet to figure out how to raise properly.
There are scientist who are trying to farm Blue Fin Tuna. Do you think that would have any kind of impact on trying to save the Blue Fin Tuna?
Adam Yamaguchi: Well I think that multiple approaches has to be taken in finding a solution. I don’t think that there is one single solution. The researchers in Japan are probably the furthest along in terms of coming up with a solution to successfully hatching and raising these tuna. Regardless of the different approaches I certainly think that there are solutions and we are not that far off from seeing farms that are going to successfully raise tuna for the commercial market so that we won’t have to take too much from the sea. I also think that the other solution is that we as a people have to think how much we are taking from the sea. People have to start asking themselves do they have to consume as much as they do. over the years fish has become such a huge a part of the diet of so many people so they are consuming so much. So we have to start considering consuming less of everything.
Do you think that at some point all fishes have the potential of becoming endangered?
Adam Yamaguchi: Absolutely the thing that we have to understand is that every specie in the oceans are all interlinked. And there is a sort of harmony that we find not only in the ocean but in the wild in general. One of the issues with farming tuna you have to feed them a lot because these are fishes that can weigh up to 700 pounds. For every one kilogram of weight gain you have to feed it seventeen kilogram of other fishes (sardines, squids etc.). So if you are farming these fishes you are still having to take from the wild and that changes the balance of the ecosystem. On the other hand if there is no more Blue Fin Tuna in the ocean then the balance is thrown the other way.
The Japanese seems to be largely to blame for the decline of the Blue Fin Tuna, but Americans consume and export it in large volume as well, so who are the real culprits here?
Adam Yamaguchi: It is a lot of parties involved the Japanese are the leading consumers of tuna but I think that there has to be control of how much fish is taken from the sea. This is one of the reasons why the Blue fin is in such dire shape because lack of proper regulations by all of the countries involved. This can be very difficult because these fishes swim thousands of miles across the ocean so they can be anywhere in the ocean at any given time. So it is going to take the effort of multiple governments to regulate and enforce rules on how much Blue Fin Tuna and fishes overall that is taken from the sea. It simply has become too much a free for all in recent years mainly because the demand is so high.
How much regulations do you believe will be enforced?
Adam Yamaguchi: I think that although they are not going to like these regulations they are going to have to live with it because in some parts of the Atlantic we are so close to loosing the Blue Fin Tuna altogether. Therefore their business would collapse so in the short term they might not like the regulations. But if they intend to stay in business or if they care about the environment at all it is in their best interest to abide by the regulations, allow the Blue Fin Tuna to replenish so that there will be an industry in the future.
As a Blue Fin lover, are you struggling whether you should continue eating what you love or not?
Adam Yamaguchi: I am a huge sushi consumer and since I filmed the story in December in Japan I have only had blue fin tuna once. I don’t really think that is the answer we all don’t have to panic and say that we could never have this stuff again. It’s just about having it less so that we can ensure there is a future.