On Saturday, a bluefin tuna was sold at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market tuna auction for $1.76 million. Which is a little crazy. (Also crazy, the size of the fish in question.) But the amount paid for this specimen of a chronically overfished species doesn't really represent simple supply and demand, explains marine biologist Andrew David Thaler. It shouldn't be read as a measurement of tuna scarcity, he says, but rather as an artifact of culture (and marketing).

6 Responses to “What you can learn from the million-dollar tuna”

  1. GawainLavers says:

    It was almost 100lbs lighter than last year’s….

    I’m not sure what the point of the article is (the lack of relation between the price and any kind of supply/demand issues was fairly well articulated in all the general news articles I read, e.g. BBC), but I think the answer is probably that based directly on scarcity and renewability, the fish was undervalued.

    It totally sucks to do, but I just don’t order tuna anymore at sushi restaurants.

    • mccrum says:

      I hear you.  I scaled back on cod and a lot of whitefish as much as I can for more renewable sources.  Pole caught cod I’m fine with, trawling not so much.

    • cegev says:

      The collapsing stocks are bluefin tuna, not tuna in general. Modernist Cuisine suggests that US Atlantic bigeye tuna is a good alternative to bluefin, referencing seafoodwatch.org. Albacore on the west coast of the US is apparently fine as far as stocks go. See the following, for example:
      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_alternatives.aspx

      • GawainLavers says:

        That’s a great resource.  Not a lot of bigeye in sushi restaurants on the West Coast, though, usually just blue or yellow.

        They don’t seem to have Walu (escolar) which I’m seeing more and more of and really like.  I guess because it’s a little poisonous, but delicious and doesn’t give me any problems in sushi servings…

  2. JimXavier says:

    tragedy of the commons,, pure and simple. Chart the graph: scarcity of tuna is directly proportional to prices like these.

  3. Navin_Johnson says:

    So it’s largely status. Basically a veblen good of sorts…

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