This January a 511-pound monster of a bluefin tuna sold at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market for $175,000–by far the highest price paid for a fish in nine years. By that afternoon, customers at Kyubey, a Michelin-starred restaurant a stone’s throw from the market, were dining on the tuna’s fatty belly, or toro , the most opulent and rich cut from the most valuable fish in the world.
Japanese diners could soon face much higher bills for bluefin. This month a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, is slated to consider a proposal to ban all commercial trade of the Northern bluefin, Thunnus thynnus , grouping it with megafauna superstars such as the white rhino and the Asian elephant. Japan imports about 80 percent of the total bluefin catch in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, even as those stocks have plummeted to such paltry levels that many scientists speculate that the fish could be headed for extinction.