Japan’s largest rotary sushi chain promotes Irish bluefin
Suita City, Osaka, Japan-based Akindo Sushiro ran a nationwide campaign from 23 February to 6 March titled Absolute Champion Tuna Fair, in which diners could compare eating Irish tuna and Oma tuna.
The fair, which featured Atlantic bluefin tuna caught off the coast of Ireland, featured a Wild Tuna Assortment menu item priced at JPY 638 (USD 5.51, EUR 5.05) including tax. The four-piece sushi assortment featured three types of neta, or topping. One sushi is topped with otoro (fatty tuna belly), which melts in the mouth; one with chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), which has a good balance of lean and fat; and two are topped with chu-toro pulled intercostal meat (hikiniku), which is meat scraped from between the bones after the fish is cut up. The latter is topped with green onion and sesame and comes with nori seaweed to wrap in gunkan style. “Gunkan” means “battleship” in Japanese, as it is thought that a nori wrapper with a mound of minced fish, sea urchin roe, or sweet shrimp protruding above the “hull” resembles a warship.
The second featured item, called Oma's Natural Tuna Eating Comparison, was also on offer. Oma hon-maguro is a Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the coast of the town of Oma in Aomori Prefecture. This area, in the Tsugaru Straight between Honshu and Hokkaido, is famous for the fattiest tuna. This is the first time that Sushiro has had a nationwide offering of Oma bluefin tuna. The offering included an assortment of two akami, or lean red meat sushi, and one sushi with lean meat pickled in soy sauce.
The promotion wsa not meant to be a direct comparison with the tuna from Ireland, since the price of lean akami is usually lower than that of otoro or chutoro. But it presented a good opportunity for Japanese customers to sample tuna from a variety of sources.
Ireland is not traditionally known as a source of bluefin tuna, but the changing climate is bringing bluefin farther north in the Atlantic, according to a 2021 study. This has caused some problems, as tuna is a limited resource and quota has been allocated by the regional fishery management organization ICCAT according to historical effort. As Ireland did not formerly have a bluefin fishery, it has no historical effort – and thus, no quota, and is limited to bycatch from its albacore fishery. The situation persists even though the tuna spend fourmonths of the year feeding along the west coast of Ireland.
Irish fishermen have lobbied for quota, but were only granted permission for scientific “catch, tag, and release” sport fishing. Meanwhile, Japanese and South Korean vessels do have access due to their past bluefin fishing. An Irish fishery news site, The Fishing Daily, reported in November 2021 there were over 30 vessels, mostly from Japan and South Korea, fishing for bluefin in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean off Ireland.
Photo courtesy of Akindo Sushiro