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You don't order whale meat or shark fin soup on a menu, but many people will still order bluefin tuna at sushi restaurants, figuring that the latter, unlike the former items, has not yet been banned and therefore must be okay. It is not, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium will kindly tell you about the near collapse of the bluefin tuna population. But tuna is a terribly popular fish, and it finds its way onto menus and television shows, as it did recently on Iron Chef America, despite the fact that Alton Brown has said that he won't eat at Nobu until the chef takes bluefin off the menu.
After chef Makoto Okuwa served a dish using otoro, or bluefin tuna belly, on the show last week, food blogger Richard Auffrey issued a public challenge to Brown. And Brown promptly did what it has been taking many people far too long to do: he took the fish off the menu. Well, metaphorically at least. As Casson Trenor reports on Mark Bittmans' blog, Iron Chef America has officially banned bluefin tuna from the show.
As a perhaps fitting postscript, Makoto lost to Iron Chef Michael Symon, who did not cook any possibly-endangered species for the event. For more on the issue of whether bluefin should be declared an endangered species, especially in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, read this recent The New York Times article. And if you have not read Paul Greenberg's recent NYT Magazine story on bluefin (check out the stunning photographs), you can do it right now.