The continuous decline in eel hauls has caused the Environment Ministry to include the Japanese eels on its Red List. The ministry admitted to be wary for unagi, a dish that is a favourite summer treat, to “face extinction in the wild in the very near future.” The Japanese Fisheries Agency announced last Thursday a 25% lower catch of eel fry from December last year until April this year. The agency said it is the fourth consecutive year for poor eel catches.
The Japanese are known for their love of eels, locally called unagi, especially during summer. Lining up for a bowl of rice with eel is not something new. However, if the trend in low hauls continues, unagi lovers may have to go the extra mile in search of their favourite summer treat, lest they find something else to satisfy their summer cravings. Prices are even feared to increase in restaurants and shops as supplies are getting less in the past couple of years.
Despite this year’s lesser hauls, the Japanese Fisheries Agency assured unagi lovers that there’s no need to worry, especially with the feared price hike. Shops and restaurant owners are cautious and still unlikely to increase their charge on unagi meals in fear of losing customers. Some companies have also reckoned importing eels from other countries like China, Taiwan, Australia, and as far as the Madagascar to meet demands especially during summer when unagi consumption is high.
The Fisheries Agency listed three main reasons for the poor haul: construction of dams and pollution, overfishing, and ocean current shifts. Most are environmental. Except for the last stated reason, all are man-made problems. To make sure that every unagi lover can still have his favourite summer treat, Japan has gone having talks with the aquatic ministries of China and Taiwan. Both are also known to be fond of eels but nothing compared to Japan that consumes 70 percent of unagi catches in the world.
[via Wall Street Journal]