Nobu, the popular and well-known Japanese fusion restaurant, has recently become a major target of Greenpeace and others. There are calls for boycotts of Nobu, and some Hollywood celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. It is filling the news channels and blogs.
Why is this so? Because Nobu serves blue fin tuna.
On a recent Saturday night, Casson Trenor and members of Greenpeace staged a "dine-in" protest at the Nobu in Tribeca. They tried to place false menus and business cards at the restaurant, the menus listing dishes with endangered species such as Mountain Gorillas and the business cards stating that Nobu was specializing in endangered species. Some of the protesters also badgered the waitstaff about blue fin tuna and sustainability. Eventually, the protesters were asked to leave the restaurant.
There is no question that Nobu does serve blue fin tuna. Their menus do state that blue fin is “environmentally challenged” and customers are suggested to ask about alternatives. But are the protests and calls for a boycott justified?
I am very concerned about the lack of information being disseminated concerning Nobu and blue fin tuna. There are so many unanswered questions out there, yet I see few people, if any, pointing out that fact. Emotions and soundbites are being promoted over logic and analysis. It seems as if Nobu was chosen as a target solely because of their celebrity status.
I do not think people should blindly follow the call for a boycott of Nobu. Instead, they should first ask questions of Nobu's critics. Get them to provide the necessary answers that will provide justification for action.
Here are some of those questions:
Where does Nobu get their blue fin? Is the blue fin acquired by Nobu caught by sustainable methods?
Why has Nobu been selected as a primary target when so many other restaurants also serve blue fin tuna? Shouldn't the boycott be called on all restaurants that serve blue fin?
How much blue fin does Nobu purchase each year? And what percentage does that constitute of all the blue fin caught worldwide? Is Nobu really a significant offender? Who are the most significant offenders? What efforts are being taken against that greatest offender?
Where does the majority of blue fin tuna end up? What percentage of blue fin ends up in the U.S.? How many U.S. restaurants serve blue fin?
These questions are but a starting point for the discussion as the answers may lead to additional questions. And if the critics of Nobu don't have answers to these questions, that really calls into question their actions. Sustainability is certainly a very important issue but blind adherence is not necessary or warranted.
Update 6/8/09, 7pm:
I found a WWF FAQ on Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean which has some interesting figures. It is estimated that approximately 60,000 tons of bluefin tuna are caught in the Mediterranean each year.
"In the two-year period of 2004-2005, some 33,788,590 kg of processed fresh and frozen Mediterranean BFT (bluefin tuna) were imported by the EU, whilst 52,805,389 kg were imported by Japan, and 871,592 kg by the US. BFT is thus sold in almost all European countries. Within the EU, 15 per cent of the 2004-2005 imports went to non-Mediterranean countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, and Holland."
What that seems to mean is that the US imports only about 10% of the bluefin tuna. Japan is the largest offender and the European Union is also a significant offender.