Post Sushi

Curbing our insatiable appetite.

Photo by Kenji Aoki

We may well be the last generation to eat wild sushi. A report from the UN Environmental Programme released in May 2010 states that 30 percent of fish stocks have “collapsed,” and it warns that unless we alter our fishing practices, in 40 years we’ll be effectively out of edible fish. Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, writes that globally we catch and consume 170 billion pounds of wild fish per year, an amount “equivalent in weight to the entire human population of China.” Greenberg points out that we would need four or five oceans to meet the appetites of the world’s seven billion humans.

If a human controlled demolition of wild fish stocks seems shocking, it would seem even more so to previous generations. Wild fish, to quote Greenberg, seemed “a crop, harvested from the sea, that magically grew itself back every year. A crop that never required planting.” For our ancestors, the very idea of us humans fishing the ocean to the point of collapse would seem preposterous. The oceans took months, even years, to sail across. The oceans were the very definition of vastness. But when a single bluefin tuna can fetch over $10,000, market forces become a deadly current that our oceans’ most delectable creatures must struggle against. Can we reverse that current somehow? Or is it too late now?