For the record, if you’re planning to visit North Lake, P.E.I after Nov. 1: don’t bother. Although, for the record, I didn’t actually have any intention of going to North Lake. I was supposed to be meeting a lobster fisherman in Souris later in the day and found myself in a small café — aptly named Bluefin — looking to escape the blustering wind and kill a little time over a hot cup of coffee. It was here that I noticed a small advertisement on my placemat for a bluefin tuna sport fishing charter out of North Lake. Upon inquiring with Google Maps, I realized the town that calls itself the “Tuna Capital of the World” was only 20 kilometres north of my current location. Although typically unimpressed (to put it gently) by the idea of hunting any animal for sport, I was still curious to learn more about the bluefin fishing industry in our country from someone directly involved. There was no answer when I called the number on the placemat, but I saw this as a minor setback. With a couple hours before my scheduled meeting decided I might as well just drive up and check it out in person.
North Lake was a ghost town; not a soul (human or tuna) in sight. But I was not discouraged. I found the shack associated with the café advertisement and proceeded to call the other number on their sign. This time I was successful, and I soon found myself driving out to the farm of a prominent bluefin charter operator. Over the next hour, he showed me his extensive taxidermy and rifle collection, tuna photo albums, and fishing boat. He also answered all my questions (even some of my more critical ones) without hesitation, and did his best to provide me with a better understanding of his chosen profession and the P.E.I bluefin fishery in general. Suffice to say, while we see tuna from two seemingly opposite perspectives, he was a most gracious host and I was grateful for his time and insights.
At this point, you may be asking why a person who works for a conservation program would go to such lengths to meet a bluefin charter fisherman in North Lake, P.E.I. While this place may not be of profound significance to most people, anyone who has read Sashi Issenberg’s The Sushi Economy should recognize the name right away. North Lake, P.E.I is one of the most important towns in the recent and rapid global expansion of the sushi industry. In fact, a couple years ago when I was at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo I came across a trio of shopkeepers trying desperately to lift a large Atlantic bluefin over their counter. This fish had a tag on it and amidst the pushing and pulling I managed to catch a glimpse: it was from Canada.
The Sushi Economy takes us around the world and introduces us to wide array of places and characters that — like the tuna charter fisherman in P.E.I. and the fishmongers at Tsukiji — could not be more dissimilar. As Issenberg eloquently portrays in his book, sushi is the culinary embodiment of globalization itself. Yet, when I was standing on a bluff overlooking the sea off North Lake, I did not feel remotely connected to anywhere else on Earth, much less a fish market half a world away. It’s the same way I sometimes feel when I go out of my way to eat seafood that is Ocean Wise recommended. The feeling that despite my best intentions, the impact I have is so minimal that maybe it’s not worth the effort. But it is. Of course it is. In the same way that the decisions and demands that come from the tuna auction floor at Tsukiji are felt everywhere that bluefin are caught, choosing to know where my fish is from and how it was caught does matter. We are all connected to the mysterious institution that is the global seafood market and despite what we might think: our actions define its behaviour.
Please feel free share your thoughts on The Sushi Economy and make sure to pick up December’s book, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.
Blog post submitted by Laurenne Schiller, Ocean Wise research analyst and book club curator at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.