Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Love tuna

The European Commission has banned the fishing of bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean today . Is common sense starting to prevail? Well, not quite because the spawning season is over now, and they acted only once the peak season was over and after the French have filled their quota.

This is happening -- totally coincidentally of course -- as I am about to fly tomorrow morning to Tokyo. I like sushi, I like tuna. But since we have all become aware of the bluefin tuna crisis, I have restrained myself; if I see tuna on a menu I ask the waiter/waitress what area it comes from and what fishing method was used. Of course, the poor waiters/tress never know what to say. But at least I feel good, because it gives me the feeling that -- by picking another dish -- at least I reach out to someone who will maybe convey my concern to his/her boss, etc.

I hope that today's EU late decision to ban unsustainable tuna fishing will mark the beginning of a new era, and that we (or our children) will be able soon to eat tuna without wondering if it's alright. We'll see next year.

The fact that I like some much eating good tuna reminds me of one anecdote that took place some twenty-five or thirty years ago. In the margins of some international meeting (I suppose it was a meeting of the International Whaling Commission), I was having a heated but cordial conversation with a Japanese delegate who -- in response to my argument that "there were substitute to all whale products" -- stared at me and said "no, there is no substitute to whale meat". I think I answered something like "come'on there's beef, fish, chicken, tofu" (if I said tofu, I guess the nose-of-the-Frenchman-in-me grew a few centimetres). Of course the Japanese guy was right; he could admit that there were substitutes to whale products such as sperm whale spermaceti wax used at the time for lipsticks and other cosmetics, whale oils etc, but a whale steak was a whale steak. To suggest that a battery chicken was a substitute was as narrow-minded on my part as considering that a lousy hamburger could be compared to a sushi. Although I was born French, I was in some ways a little bit culturally and gastronomically insensitive in my mid'twenties, may I say?

Today however, in 2007 with the increase of human demography and the global drive for consumption, I think it's important that we give something away. Be it tuna, whale (and other) meat, air conditioning, unsustainable holidays, etc.

[Hugo, my 20 year-old son studies at the école hotelière; very good studies (and expensive -- believe me!). But I get the impression that the course on "hostelery and the environment" says very little about the traceability of fish. Maybe I should propose to the director of the école hotelière that (instead of paying a fortune for my son's studies) I come once in a while and give them a lecture.]

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