Judge Daryl Loomis smells fishy.
In January of this year, a 489-pound Bluefin tuna sold at a Japanese fish auction for a record $1.7 million.
That astounding figure, in addition to the fact that in 2009, 44,000 tons of the fish were imported into Japan alone, there's no question that tuna is big business. Japan imports the most in the world, but many other countries have caught onto the deliciousness of the deep purple flesh and succulent flavors and, now that China and India's palettes are starting to warm up to it and increasing their consumption every day, there's a mounting fear that, within a generation, there will be no more left in the oceans.
In Sushi: The Global Catch director Mark Hall shows both his reverence for sushi and concern about the overfishing of our oceans. The first half of the film is a love story about the sushi industry. He takes a long look at the master chefs who construct such beautiful creations, as well as the supremely detail oriented people who ensure that only the best fish and rice are brought into the chef's kitchen.
He takes us to the Tsukiji fish market, the largest of the kind in the world, where tuna magnates bid on the best fish of the catch and where that record sum was paid. Many thousands of dollars run through that market every day, with fierce competition for the highest-end product. He also takes us down a more disgusting path to the inventor and marketer for the Sushi Popper, where tuna rolls are manufactured industrially to create some kind of unholy cross between Push Up pops and Pringles.
This Dr. Moreau of sushi is genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing his "fun" product to the hands and mouths of school children, stadiums, and movie theaters, but turning Bluefin tuna into a globalized convenience food is a great example of the problem we're facing. These prized fish don't pop out of their eggs as 500-pound behemoths; that process takes decades and, really, the big money men behind the industry don't want the smaller fare. It was one thing when only the Japanese had realized how great the belly of a Bluefin tastes; their population could only eat so much of it. But then the US and all its gluttony discovered it and, soon, so did the rest of the world. The market is incredibly broad now, but there are only so many fish in the sea.
Once they're gone, it's not only a question of our ability to fill our bellies. The much bigger issue is about what happens to the oceans with them gone. At the top end of the undersea food chain, they're responsible for eating the fish at the level below them. Without that, those fish begin to spawn in huge numbers and, unchecked, will decimate the level below them, leaving the ocean bare of anything aside from the sea urchins and jellyfish.
Hall describes the two basic ways people deal with the problem. The first, the market approach, is trying to take steps to farm tuna sustainably, either through traditional mean or through technology. This solution, if even possible, is strictly concerned with continuing the flood of Bluefin for human consumption. The second, the conservationist approach, is trying to keep the oceans stocked with the fish for the sake of the ocean. Unfortunately for consumers, the only answer to that problem is that we stop eating tuna entirely, and that won't fly with the industry on any level, but individuals can make a choice. One such person is the owner of a sushi restaurant, who has elected to serve only local, sustainably caught fish as he works to educate others on this serious issue. Of course, there's going to have to be some kind of compromise between the two sides for anything to change, which is something that is barely discussed during the documentary.
Sushi: The Global Catch is really about tuna specifically, but there are plenty of other fish that we love who will potentially suffer the same fate. The documentary does a pretty good job of declaring a love for sushi, while still recognizing the need for change. The story moves organically from the love side to the concern side and the narration and interviews, much of which is in Japanese, are both interesting and informative.
Sushi: The Global Catch comes to DVD from Kino Lorber in a bare-bones edition. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks just fine for a modern documentary, with a clean transfer and solid colors, but it's nothing special. The stereo sound mix performs similarly; it serves its purpose but doesn't draw attention to itself.
The only things that serve as extras on the disc are a photo gallery and a trailer, along with some text information and links to further study on the issue.
Sushi: The Global Catch is a serviceable documentary with a lot of good information, both on the sushi making process and the issues of overfishing. It gives equal time to both the celebration and the admonition and tells the story well, making it a film I can easily recommend to anybody interested in the topic.
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