Greenpeace Disrupts Nobu’s Saturday Night


Photo courtesy Steve Smith: Bluefin tuna at Nobu

In an interesting turn of events, this weekend, Greenpeace stopped playing nice with Nobu, which persists in serving bluefin tuna, albeit with an asterisk labeling it “environmentally endangered.” Members of the group made reservations for six tables on Saturday night, and once there, planted fake menus listing dishes made with endangered animals–blue whale whale tongue and rack of mountain gorilla alongside the bluefin–and asked servers to answer questions about fish sourcing and sustainability.

Molly Dorozenski, media officer for the group, was involved in the action and described it in an email.

Jump to read her account.

We communicated directly with the Nobu staff and manager through a variety of tactics. They caught on fast to the menu switches (checked all menus as they were handing them out), but we were able to post them in the men’s room and the ladies’ room, and some activists handed them directly to diners. Our table pretended to have found one and asked management about it, management tried to confiscate it, but we were able to show it to a nearby table.

Another table simply said that they couldn’t order until sustainability and sourcing was explained to them — when they didn’t receive answers from the waiter, they continued asking questions. For a while, the waitstaff completely ignored them and refused to even refill their water glasses. They were in there for an hour and a half, and at no point did they get satisfactory answers about bluefin or other unsustainable seafood, or even guidance as to which menu items they should order.

As various tables asked questions about their sustainability policies and bluefin specifically, we were all told “no comment” and Nobu refused to engage on the subject. We had a total of 6 tables, 23 people there, all night from 6PM to 10PM.

For the record, Dorozenski says that all the Greenpeace tables tipped the servers, as Nobu’s policies are not their fault.

But bringing a protest inside a restaurant, probably disrupting the meals of other diners and making life difficult for servers, is an aggressive move, and I’m curious what the reactions will be.

In general, restaurants should be able to serve anything that’s legal, and we can all chose where we bring our business. The foie gras protesters have the right to stand outside restaurants with nasty signs, but their notion that restaurants are somehow required to “negotiate” with them is laughable. More (accurate) information is good; outlawing certain foods is not–until you come to endangered species.

Bluefin tuna populations are in steep declines around the world as a result of overfishing–and it’s very likely that the fish will go extinct if the world continues to plunder bluefin at the current rate. (For more on this take a look at the new documentary, The End of the Line.) The problem is that many diners don’t know this, and might make different choices if sustainability information was readily available.

The folks at Nobu clearly do realize the fish is endangered. So why do they continue to serve it? Bluefin is a huge business, a fish you can sell at high prices and a kind of status symbol.

So what do you think about Greenpeace’s tactics? Are they justified by the high stakes involved in the extinction of an animal? We’re inclined to think so.

[Related: No Fish by 2048?]