Free Trade

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, $100,000 Bluefin

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tuna

Everyone knows sushi can be expensive, but this is something else:

Two sushi bar owners paid more than $100,000 for a Japanese bluefin tuna at a Tokyo fish auction Monday, several times the average price and the highest in nearly a decade, market officials said. The 282-pound premium tuna caught off the northern coast of Oma fetched $104,700, the highest since 2001.

You might think that the sale of this huge, delicious, scary-looking tuna is all part of the grand Tokyo tradition going back centuries. And it is, in a way. But a fusion of American and Japanese tastes, techniques, natural resources, and new refrigeration and travel technology made the tuna market what it is today. 

The taste for richer fish such as tuna arrived [in Japan] with American troops after World War II, who introduced enthusiastic red meat eating to a previously ascetic people. The most prized sushi today is fatty tuna from the belly of the fish, or toro. But before Americans started ordering nigiri—raw fish laid on balls of rice—most traditional sushi chefs looked down on tuna with the same disdain a French chef has for fat-free mayonnaise.

Likewise, the American concept of tuna—the white, flaky stuff in cans—had no place for the rich, red flesh of the 600-pound creatures being caught in the cold water of the Atlantic. The huge tuna that now spark intense bidding wars at Japan's Tsukiji seafood market were used primarily to make cat food.

An airline executive with empty cargo holds to fill got a worldwide market in tuna going, and the rest is history.

Read the rest of the article on sushi and globalization from me, here in "The Day of the Flying Fish."

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  1. The common worker could afford sushi if it were not for these repulsive auctioneers.

  2. KMW,

    I work at an Asian restaurant. The price, while excessive, sounds about right considering how things are going in the tuna world. Just Pacific Ahi tuna is going for around $26 dollars a pound and that quote is almost 6 months old. Its totally priced just about every sushi restaurant out of the market. I’m waiting for the “market failure” excuse and talk of bailouts.

  3. LurkerBold,

    The common worker wouldn’t like sushi. Any thing else to report on the masses?

  4. NS,

    Why are you so negative and arrogant about the workers? Are you afraid of brown people?

  5. Marie Antoinette cat sez
    I eated all the tuna
    Let them eat cheezburgerz.

  6. A good tuna steak is the greatest food on Earth.

  7. Warren,

    LOL, yes, excellent!

    I know many struggling poets who would really like sushi, but people like NS keep it from their grasp out of spite.

  8. Also, I’ve noticed that even “Italian” restaurants are now offering a tuna dish.

  9. Tuna is excellent, whether in sushi or in seared form.

  10. We could turn that picture into the world’s first LolTuna.

    I can haz finz bak?

  11. The common worker wouldn’t like sushi.

    Bullshit. Common appeal all around.

    (I’ve made this… it is strangely delicious…)

    Also, Naga, don’t pick up a baby covered in shit. It’s no cuter close-up and it squirms.

  12. Also, if everybody ate raw fish we would not be poisoning Mother Earth with carbon as quickly as we are now.

    Using green ships with sails would be more efficient too.

  13. Of course, there are a variety of tunas, some of which cost a whole lot less than blue-fin. Like blackfin and yellowfin (ahi).

  14. Pro,

    Uh huh, let the workers have scraps as it were?

  15. Don’t tell Jeremy Piven.

  16. To steer away briefly from the goodness that is tuna, I just heard that Leon Panetta will be the new CIA chief. I actually met him (briefly) at an OMB anniversary party back in the 90s. Does this mean that I can ask him to overthrow a nation of my choosing?

    Back to tuna: Scraps? What’s wrong with yellowfin, you poor excuse for a fake troll?

  17. If bluefin is good enough for you why is it not good enough for the people in the mill?

  18. So sad, I wonder how old that fish was to make it to 250 lbs.

    What a shame and what a waste.
    A fish like that belongs in the sea. Not on some snobs dinner plate.

  19. I dunno, ’cause I’m their natural superior as a member of the sword-wielding aristocracy?

    I’m not sure I’ve had bluefin, come to think of it.

  20. Leon Panetta?

    Now that’s change we can be confused by.

  21. I’m not sure I’ve had bluefin, come to think of it.

    I actually prefer it to toro. But that might just be me.

  22. Pro,

    Was that from some English comedy act?

  23. Samurai, dimwit.

  24. Watching the Hawaii fish auction is pretty cool. Literally. It’s like being on the floor of the NYSE or CBOT but in a giant freezer.

  25. damn it all,

    Did you just call me a snob?

    LurkerBold,

    The mills? Christ! Do you have an FDR pamplet or something?

    SugarFree,

    Most of the guests I serve appear to have a certain income level. The guests I serve who don’t want sushi tend to want the cheap rice and/or noodle bowls. My bad.

  26. joe, I remember Samurai Baker, Samurai Psychatrist, Samurai Tailor, but not Samurai Dimwit.

  27. Pro Lib,

    If you ever come to Biloxi, you gotta try my restaurants Seared Kobe roll. Snow Crab salad, Ahi tuna, Karagee Asparagus, all topped with seared Kobe beef. It fucking rocks!

  28. NS,

    Yes. Is this easier?

    Naga Sadow,

    The common worker wouldn’t like sushi.

    You are such a snob! I know all sorts of workers who would love sushi and I am no snob.

    Oh, that is a name someone is using here. At any rate, you are still a snob and the workers in the mills would see right through you.

  29. Seeing the story here is amusing, because that book along with more recent articles illustrate that the bluefin is rather rapidly going extinct and the only thing that can stop it is the dread international institution to foil a commons-based market failure!

  30. I really thought Hogan’s link was going to go a completely different way.

  31. LurkerBold,

    The mill workers can see through me all they want as long as they know their place and keep making shoddy goods for the proles!

    Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Also, yes it is true. I know a lot of people who won’t touch raw fish in any form. Most of them make only about what I make. 35k or below. Sorry if I have actual experience working in a Japanese steakhouse.

  32. NS,

    Every time I chance across an oppressed worker like you I am amazed at how many continue to follow the random chantings of the libertarian sirens.

  33. Maybe poor people would like sushi more if their wife’s vagina didn’t taste so goddamn bad.

  34. LurkerBold,

    Free me!!! Free me from the shackles imposed on me by the tyranny of evil men!!! Regulate me to freedom!

    Happy now?

  35. BOC,

    It’s the water here.

  36. Naga,

    Sushi is good thing. My favorite Tampa sushi outlet is Samurai Blue. Their signature dish is the Spontaneous Combustion Roll. It is so choice. I’m not sure what’s in the roll, other than grouper and Japanese mayo, but it’s very tasty. It’s also served warm, which is unusual in sushi world. The best part is that the place is priced high enough that hoi polloi like MerkinBold cannot sully my enjoyment of the food ?

  37. NS,

    First join the Union then I might begin to believe you.

    If you do not have a Union yet, organize a strike right after the inauguration so the Union can help you.

  38. SugarFree – how about this?
    http://www.sportsnet.ca/football/nfl/2008/12/29/parcells_miami/

    So since the Dolphins lost, which big tuna is now worth more pound for pound, bluefin or Parcells?

  39. Oxymoron of the Week (and a strong early candidate for Oxymoron of the Year):

    a commons-based market failure

  40. Ooh, he worked in “merkin.”

    Nicely done.

  41. The mercury content alone is probably worth $100,000. 😉

  42. How could I call you a “snob” I don’t even know you. >:)

    I had meant: any ingrate who would eat a slaughtered 250 lb fish; that may have roamed the sea for 20 years, is a snob. But of course these are the same people who might eat unicorn stakes.

    I Love Sushi, (I love a good spicy tuna roll) but for moral and environmental reasons, I’ve set my chopsticks aside.

    And I lived in Japan for 2 years.

    We are severely over fishing our seas, and could completely decimate the oceans population with in the next ten years if we don’t slow down our nets and polls.

    Then where will we be?
    No grain, no fish?

    We could always eat those fat cats on capital hill.
    Hmm I bet they would taste good with enough soy sauce!

  43. Oh, and I wasn’t making any references to English comedy acts or samurai. I was actually thinking French aristocracy around the time of the Three Musketeers.

    joe,

    That was for Viking Moose, blessed be his memory.

  44. Pro Lib,

    It looks like a scallop fucked a squid! No way I’m touching that without a lot of sake in my system. Ginjo is preferable but Daiginjo would be teh awesome!

    LurkerBold,

    Why do I feel that you are plotting to be the next Big Brother? “Quell the masses, liquidate your enemies, and change your name to Stalin, which is Russian for “man of steel”.”

  45. CN,

    There will only ever be one true Big Tuna to me.

  46. damn it all,

    I am disappointed in you! If you had a chance to eat unicorn steaks you would abscond? FOOL!!! I bet you would turn down mammoth steaks too, huh?

    Though your idea on eating politicians sounds . . . delicious. Also, stopping using the term “soy sauce”. It’s called me-chung sauce. Me-chung means “white people”.

  47. I dunno that I’d eat a unicorn steak, but I’m sure I’d use unicorn dog food or unicorn glue.

  48. I, for one, would eat the horrible miscegenation that would result from the coupling of a squid and a scallop. Assuming they were in love and it wasn’t some sort of cheap one-night-stand.

  49. Pro Lib,

    The Musketeers reference went over my head. Though for about a year I wore a name tag that stated my name was Aramis.

  50. SugarFree,

    You romantic you.

  51. Gotta go peeps. I’m on day 8 of a 9 day work week.

  52. I’m on day 8 of a 9 day work week

    Elitist snob.

  53. I love my people.

  54. joe,

    And, yes, Leon is yet another Clinton retread. Not sure what his relevant experience is, other than doing lots of government stuff. He’s more a money guy, though I guess Chief of Staff could be viewed as some sort of generic administrative position.

  55. After the worker’s revolution, high quality sushi will be distributed to all the millworkers. Of course, millworking will be the only job besides all the fishing (which will take a while since it’s gotta be green) and sushi preparing.

    Oh yeah, and by “millworking” I mean turning generators for electricity. It’s green, ya know. Gotta break that oil addiction.

    Millworking and government grade raw fish. Can’t wait for the revolution.

  56. He hasn’t tortured anyone. Or agured in favor of torturing anyone. Or pretended that coming up with a cutesy name for an act of torture means it isn’t torture.

    So…there’s that.

  57. I was actually thinking French aristocracy around the time of the Three Musketeers.

    Thank goodness that set of snobs was beheaded. We need to be more like France.

  58. Well we may not have hit “peak oil” just yet, but it looks like we may have hit “peak tuna”.

  59. We’ve clearly hit Peak Troll over the last few days.

  60. You assume the troll supply is finite, which, given our current state of affairs, is not a very sound assumption.

  61. I don’t know about that–the OMB head has extraordinary powers. And I hear that he craves the bluefin sushi, the robber baron.

    I have no real opinion about this one. I’m trying to remember Panetta in Congress, but I don’t recall anything overly good or bad. I’m sure someone will refresh my recollection.

    Note: The Three Musketeers was set well in advance of the Revolution. Like over 150 years earlier.

  62. Pro,

    So it took a little longer for the French to develop their advanced system of government as we can see today.

  63. “””And, yes, Leon is yet another Clinton retread. Not sure what his relevant experience is, other than doing lots of government stuff.”””

    He was good at keeping his mouth shut about where the bodies are buried?

  64. RC, I’d like to hear your groudbreaking theory of why a commons issue can’t create a market failure. It’s kinda econ 101. Are you calculating the optimum level of tuna extraction using libertarianomics, where externalities don’t exist and even if they do we shouldn’t try to capture them in any way?

  65. TrickyVic,

    Well, that may prove useful to this administration if Obama is, in fact, a true Chicagoan.

    LurkerBold,

    Okay, so who are you, really? I like to blame thoreau for all pre-unmasked fake trolls, though I was proven wrong in the Neil unveiling.

  66. I’m not saying there’s no more troll out there. Clearly, there is.

    I’m just saying we’re seeing steadily diminishing returns from greater and greater effort.

  67. Jack – if there were designated property rights, as opposed to a commons, a Coasean solution would emerge.

  68. Sigh. Yet another global trolling denier.

  69. Different Angry Optimist:

    A commons is the absence of property rights, and hence, of the market (there can be no market without property, after all).

    Resource depletion in a commons cannot be called a market failure, because the market could not, by definition, have had anything to do with it.

    Kind of like arguing that Brett Favre is a bad quarterback because he doesn’t have any strikeouts.

  70. Nigel Watt | January 5, 2009, 3:20pm | #

    A good tuna steak is the greatest food on Earth.

    Quoted for truthfulness

  71. A commons is the absence of property rights,

    That’s not quite right. There are property rights in the fishing boats/sheep. There are property rights in the fish once caught.

    The Tragedy of the Commons is generally introduced as an example of market failure.

  72. I like to blame thoreau for all pre-unmasked fake trolls, though I was proven wrong in the Neil unveiling.

    Really? Who was Neal?

    Trolls I know of:

    Lonewhacko/OLS/24Ahead
    Edward/Lefiti (Concerned Observer?)

    I was thinking SIV might be “no 1 u no”

    If Neal= TallDave, that is uninteresting.

    If it turns out to be Jen, or Dr T, or joe, that would be interesting.

    Jen slips up when she uses fake names though.

  73. Neil was Cesar.

  74. Neil was Cesar.

    You know i hear this over and over again. Do we have proof of that? Or is it really just an assumption thats kind of become the truth.

  75. Other tuna, that is not quite so good;
    http://www.hollywoodtuna.com/

    (I would hyperlink it or whatever, but I am not on my computer)

  76. Do we have proof of that?

    Jesse Walker wrote that they had the same IP address.

    Unless… that’s only what he wanted us to think.

  77. I don’t think I new Ceasar. I think his reign at H&R was in my absence.

  78. as much as I didn’t new him, i never knew him either.

    So I am downloading firefox onto this not mine laptop.

    So was Ceasar like a regular, or did he have crazy views?

  79. That’s not quite right. There are property rights in the fishing boats/sheep. There are property rights in the fish once caught.

    Yes, but there are no property rights in the ocean/pasture – the part specifically that is held in common. Hence, the name “the Commons”.

  80. Cesar was a tyrant, so he had to go.

  81. So was Ceasar like a regular, or did he have crazy views?

    Lol.

    No crazy views here!

    Kolohe,

    Right, but that wasn’t in dispute. The question was, is the Tragedy of the Commons a market failure. RC argued that it couldn’t be, because there was no market, because there were no property rights. Of course, we have a market in fish, and property rights in fishing fleets and their catch.

  82. I am an awesome troll when I choose to be. H&R you get trolled someday somehow, bwhahahhahahhahhahhahahhahhahhahha! ha!

  83. The Tragedy of the Commons is generally introduced as an example of market failure.

    If by “market failure” you mean “failure of a market to come into existence”, then sure. If you mean “failure of the market system to produce a tolerable outcome”, then not so much.

    While there are indeed markets in resources (the fish) once extracted from a commons (the ocean), that is not the market that is supposed to be failing, here. Those markets are working quite well, thanks.

    What is failing to produce a tolerable outcome here is the commons, not a market, and a commons is not a market.

  84. It’s amazing that KMW could write an entire article about bluefin tuna without even alluding to the extreme overfishing of bluefin. What kind of a journalist does that?

  85. RC,

    From http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure

    Market failure
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    In economics, a market failure is a situation wherein the allocation of production or use of goods and services by the free market is not efficient. Market failures can be viewed as scenarios where individuals’ pursuit of pure self-interest leads to results that can be improved upon from the societal point-of-view.[1] The first known use of the term by economists was in 1958,[2] but the concept has been traced back to the Victorian philosopher Henry Sidgwick.[3]

    Market failure is often used as a justification for government intervention in free markets.[4] Economists, especially microeconomists, use many different models and theorems to analyze the causes of market failure, and possible means to correct such a failure when it occurs.[5] Such analysis plays an important role in many types of public policy decisions and studies. However, some types of government policy interventions, such as taxes, subsidies, bailouts, wage and price controls, and regulations, including attempts to correct market failure, may also lead to an inefficient allocation of resources, which has been called government failure.[6] Thus, there is often a choice between imperfect outcomes, i.e. imperfect market outcomes and imperfect government outcomes.

    Contents [hide]
    1 Causes
    2 Interpretations and policy
    3 Objections
    3.1 Public choice
    3.2 Austrian
    3.3 Marxian
    4 See also
    5 References
    6 External links

    [edit] Causes
    See also: public goods, monopoly, monopsony, oligopoly, and externality
    According to mainstream economic analysis, a market failure (relative to Pareto efficiency) can occur for three main reasons.[1]

    First, an agent in a market can gain market power, allowing them to block other mutually beneficial gains from trade from occurring. This can lead to inefficiency due to imperfect competition, which can take many different forms, such as monopolies, monopsonies, cartels, or monopolistic competition, if the agent does not implement perfect price discrimination.
    Second, the actions of an agent can have externalities, which are innate to the methods of production, or other conditions important to the market.[1]
    Finally, some markets can fail due to the nature of certain goods, or the nature of their exchange. For instance, goods can display the attributes of public goods or common-pool resources, while markets may have significant transaction costs, agency problems, or informational asymmetry.[1] In general, all of these situations can produce inefficiency, and a resulting market failure.

  86. Joe,

    When you post a link, it’s not necessary to also cut and paste the text from the page you link to. In fact, it’s obnoxious to do so.

    -jcr

  87. joe, I know that people like to say that tragedy of the commons type situations are market failures, but I think that is a fundamental category error.

    Because the allocation of goods that are “common pool resources” or whatever you call it is not done in a market, by definition.

    There is no property right in free-range tuna, no transferrable blue-fin tuna fishing rights, and thus no market in blue-fin tuna fishing rights than can fail.

    The failure here is the failure of non-market systems to produce efficient allocation of goods and services, so I think “market failure” is a misnomer.

  88. So, do Texans eat sushi, or do they continue to make “bait” jokes? I can state authoritatively that Alabamians do eat the sushi. I saw about fifty sushi places on my drive up through Alabama to Tennessee last year. There are also ten thousand independent Mexican restaurants on that same stretch of highway(s).

    Naturally, we eat it in Florida, but that’s not going to surprise anyone.

  89. This is a bizarre thread. Has anyone tasted this sort of steak before?

  90. Cooked? No.

  91. RC, just google “market failure definition.”

    Every single one of the definitions alludes to resources held in common. Do you know why that is?

    Because the case of resources held in common ownership leading to market failure – that is, to a situation in which the market does not produce efficient outcomes – is the textbook example of a market failure.

    It’s not a case of “people like to say;” it’s the definition of the term within the field of economics. The “people” who “like to say” that this situation is a market failure are called “economists.”

  92. It’s not an ideological term, RC. It’s a neutral, technical term, that doesn’t suggest anything one way or the other about the transcendent wonderfulness of the free market.

  93. So, do Texans eat sushi, or do they continue to make “bait” jokes? I can state authoritatively that Alabamians do eat the sushi. I saw about fifty sushi places on my drive up through Alabama to Tennessee last year. There are also ten thousand independent Mexican restaurants on that same stretch of highway(s).

    Naturally, we eat it in Florida, but that’s not going to surprise anyone.

    Lots of Texans eat sushi. Other Texans would claim that those people are not Texans. I happen to be one that eats sushi.

  94. RC and joe are quibbling over semantics, but I think RC has the better argument. A tragedy of the commons occurs because a market in that good cannot form or is prevented from forming. A downstream markets in products made from the commons resource can exacerbate the problem, but is the cause of the tragedy is a lack of a market in the resource. I suppose a market not existing can be construed to be a “market failure”, but that is not what most people think of when hearing that term.

  95. Jesus H Christ, of your many flaws joe, pedant was never on the list.

  96. Two other observations: how can you not expect a great deal of trolling in a discussion about tuna, and second, does this thread make Bill Parcells even a little nervous?

  97. It’s not an ideological term, RC. It’s a neutral, technical term

    Come now. I half-suspect your tongue is in cheek. “Failure” has negative connotations, last time I checked, even if the denotation of “market failure” is supposedly value-neutral.

    If you deny that it’s an ideological term, then let’s agree to call it, say, a “common ownership catastrophe”, and then we’ll all just keep in mind that it’s a technical term.

  98. Neil was Cesar [sic] (try Caesar). As pointed out above, JW outed that one as Neil.

    joe, as usual, is talking out his hat about the commons and RCD kindly gives joe his hat while refraining to mention that joe’s mother smells of elderberries. Sort of like talking to poetry dweebs about real property vs. personal property.

    PL, why not just behead the autonomous collective wretched anarcho singularist communist old woman 37 yo man with your sword and be done with it? If some strange woman laying in a pond tosses that sword at you by G_d you should use it!

    Ooops, you said it was french. Perhaps a sword of metal next time?

    BTW, Tenneeseeans eat sushi too, I had a load for lunch AND for dinner. Dinner was topped with quite cheap red wine.

    I suspect that this LB fellow weighs the same as a duck, just like joe. Perhaps a bridge should be made out of him?

  99. Whoa! Guy’s back?

  100. NS,

    It is not like I was gon forever. Just a couple of weeks or so?

  101. i had 69 with the little mermaid once and i can still smell the tuna.

    the reference upthread to squid/scallop miscegenation reminded me of an even more bizarre instance:

    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003568.html

  102. …the American concept of tuna-the white, flaky stuff in cans-had no place for the rich, red flesh of the 600-pound creatures being caught in the cold water of the Atlantic.

    Sorry, Charlie…

  103. bruce,

    I might as well add on this hilarious link. Engrish is fun!

    juris,

    He’s not being pedantic. He was responding to RC throwing around superlatives like “oxymoron of the year” and then holding his (reasonable, just not on reason) position.

  104. This thread is a fine illustration of the difference between people who are familiar with the discipline of economics, and people who shout “You need to take Econ 101” in political arguments.

    Market Failure: google it. It has an actual definition. It’s not some made up term like “common ownership catastrophe.”

    This is really easy, people. There’s this thing called the Google. You can enter a term, like “market failure definition,” and these things called links come up. On the first page, some of them will go to dicitonary sites. Some of them will to go to econ sites. All of them will to go to sites that identify the commons problem as an example of a market failure.

    This isn’t a matter of opinion, or inductive reasoning, or figuring out what the term means by looking at the individual words. There is already an established definition of the term “market failure,” and the commons problem is universally called out as one of the most common examples.

    Even in the Econ 101 text books.

  105. Oh yeah, and by “millworking” I mean turning generators for electricity. It’s green, ya know. Gotta break that oil addiction.

    Are you suggesting we put them on Wheels of Pain? Good idea, and after they get all huge from it, we can sell them to guys who need pitfighters. Crom!

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