Tsukiji's Fish Market

Japan's biggest fish market opens at dawn. Nick Haslam described it in The Financial Times 5 May 2001:

"Tsukiji's daily turnover is in excess of $25 million....Those big fish at our feet had been caught in long lines in the South Pacific or the Mediterranean only days before and then placed on ice packed in special wooden containers to be air-freighted to Japan as soon as the trawler docked at its home port. ...Wriggling eels were sliced on chopping boards, large blocks of red whale meat and innumerable species of shellfish and crab lay decoratively stacked on piles of finely chopped ice....Nearby, massive tuna were being cut up by three men skillfully wielding razor sharp long swords."

Long lines attract sea birds who see the bait from above and plunge in, often to be hooked and drowned. These birds include the wandering albatrosses in the South Pacific. An endangered species of albatross is being led toward extinction by long line fisheries. Petrels, too, are frequently captured in long line fisheries, where they die. The sea birds most praised by poets are being wiped out by this fishery in order to supply the expensive tuna to Tsukiji's fish market.

Noting that Nick Haslam described the whale meat as being offered in "large blocks of red whale meat," the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which has followed boats pursuing the large dolphins called Dall's Porpoises, questions "What kind of whale?" Japan has given itself a "Scientific Permit" to kill minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean. To sell the meat from these challenged "scientific studies" means that the blocks of meat came from minke whales or, this year, from sperm whales or Bryde's whales who for the first time were included in the Japanese self-awarded scientific permit. Or it could have come from Dall's Porpoise meat which is often canned and labeled "kujira," or whale meat.


Caption:  Unloading Dall's porpoise from a truck, Iwate Coast, Japan. (EIA)