Last year, 41 Oma premium bluefin tuna were on the block for the New Year's auction at Tokyo's famous Tsukiji Market, the biggest fish market in the world. This year, there were only four—and one of them sold for a seven-year high of $104,000, to be split between Hong Kong and Tokyo sushi bar owners.
Next year, there may be none, say scientists.
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is in charge of bluefin stocks around the world. Their own scientists had recommended slashing the international quota to 7500 tons to bring back the enormous, long-lived predator fish from the brink of extinction. Under pressure from the European Union, the Commission instead decided in November to lower the catch only slightly, to 22,500 tons. Greenpeace has determined that because of extensive pirate fishing, the real catch was more like 60,000 tons in 2007. But even the most unscrupulous trawlers can't find as many fish as in the past due to population crashes.
All of this puts innocent wasabi-loving diners in the same position as the Komodo-dragon dining plutocrats in that Matthew Broderick movie The Freshman.