Jet travel allows perishable goods to speed over oceans. Fishermen call in their catch across distant seas via satellite phone. Agents are able to sustain orders by quickly moving capital across currencies to out-of-the-way docks in developing countries.
As the world gets smaller, the selection in those glass cases gets bigger—and better. Nearly every business across the world has been in some way affected by the currents of global capitalism, but in few places are the complex dynamics of globalization revealed as clearly as in the tuna’s journey from the sea to the sushi bar.
In the sushi system, tuna is the trophy fish: the most demanded by diners, the one that is tested as a benchmark of a restaurant’s merit. A little over a generation ago, red tuna was worthless in most parts of the world, where an established market existed for it only as pet food, but the ability to make fresh tuna available to diners across long distances, and a newly acquired taste for fat among the Japanese changed all that. By the mid-1970s, it was common for a bluefin tuna caught in the Atlantic on a summer Sunday evening to be served for lunch in Tokyo on Wednesday. Over the course of the following two decades, the average price paid to Atlantic fishermen rose by 10,000 percent.
Read the rest of Sasha Issenberg on "The Sushi Economy" here.