The people most upset about Japan’s utter failure to preserve the bluefin tuna population can be found in the small Japanese fishing town of Oma, where bluefin provides both the town’s livelihood and identity. Using two-man crews, hand-held fishing lines, and live bait, the fishermen of Oma catch the fish the same way it has been done for generations, and regard capturing one to be a battle between two equally matched opponents. Now, of course, thanks to industrial fishing fleets, which use helicopters to find the tuna schools and net hundreds at a time, immature fish and all, the tuna catch in Oma is drying up. Ten years ago, each boat could catch several fish a day. Now, all the boats in town are lucky to catch six fish between them.
In order to keep fishing profitable, the town has trademarked the tuna hauled in by its fishing fleet. “Oma bluefin” signifies tuna that’s been caught in the old-fashioned way by Oma fishermen, and is now fetching astronomical prices. A sushi chef in Hong Kong recently paid $50,000 for 140 pounds of it.