Nobu offers critically-endangered species to sushi diners
Jeremy Hance,
September 8, 2008

Nobu, a pricey and trendy sushi restaurant with locations around the world, regularly serves critically-endangered Northern bluefin tuna to its clientele, reveals an investigation by the environmental group Greenpeace.

Greenpeace used DNA tests at three Nobu resuarants in London to determine the species used in the sushi. It was shown to be Northern bluefin tuna, a species listed as critically-endangered on the IUCN Red List.

"Eating bluefin tuna is as bad as digging into a tiger steak or gorilla burger,” said Willie Mackenzie, Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner. “It is entirely unacceptable that Nobu, or any restaurant, is serving an endangered species, and it must stop immediately if the species is to be saved from extinction."

The species has been decimated by overfishing: in thirty years bluefin tuna populations have dropped 90 percent.

Bluefin tuna. Courtesy of NOAA
“We are facing the very real prospect of hunting this animal to biological extinction just as we did the passenger pigeon, the Steller's sea cow, and other species,” Mike Sutton of the Monterey Bay Aquarium told in an interview. “We're seeing all the classic signs of overfishing. Today fishermen cannot even catch the quota the government gives them, which is symptomatic of a collapsing fishery, like the North Atlantic cod.”

Bluefin tuna is one of the ocean’s top predators, reaching ten feet in length and up to 1500 pounds. Sutton calls the bluefin the “Porsche of the Ocean” due its ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in five seconds. In addition, Sutton said the bluefin “is the most valuable fish in the sea: one fish in the Tokyo market can bring more than $150,000”—which is almost two new Porsches.

Despite being critically-endangered, it is not illegal to catch or sell bluefin tuna if done within government regulations. There remains, however, a thriving illegal market for bluefin tuna. Sutton points out that if the bluefin tuna were a land predator, hunting it would be illegal. “We've long banned market hunting—hunting wild animals for commerce instead of subsistence—on land...But we do it in the ocean—it's called commercial fishing. Nothing wrong with that of course–we all love seafood—but if we're going to market hunt in the ocean we really ought to do it on a sustainable basis.”

Responding to the plight of bluefin tuna, many of Nobu’s competitors no longer sell the species. Moshi Moshi and Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants have both removed bluefin tuna from their kitchens. The London Sushi Awards, the world’s only sushi competition, has placed a moratorium on bluefin as well.

Nobu restaurant, owned by Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro, is known for serving high-profile clientele, such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Elle Macpherson, and Bill Clinton. Greenpeace found that each of its three locations in London served Northern bluefin tuna. Nobu’s supplier of bluefin tuna is Arari-Yar, apart of Japanese Fishmongers and T&S Enterprisers.

To save the bluefin and other embattled marine species, Greenpeace recommends establishing marine reserves in 40 percent of the ocean. The organization believes such reserves would ensure the future survival of commercial fish species.

Jeremy Hance, (September 08, 2008).

Nobu offers critically-endangered species to sushi diners.