In the 1970s, a Japanese entrepreneur began importing cheap Atlantic bluefin tuna. The fish’s belly meat soon became a prized cut called otoro, and today Japan consumes over 80 percent of the world’s bluefin. But after 40 years of intensive fishing, bluefin numbers have plummeted, driving up prices. In January 2012, Kiyoshi Kimura paid a record US$736,000 for the first bluefin of the season, telling Japan’s Jiji Press, “I wanted people in Japan, not those abroad, to eat the number-one tuna.”
In the 1950s, giant Nile perch were introduced into Lake Victoria, east Africa, where they decimated native fish species. Commercial fisheries export perch fillets to Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA, but leave little left. Local fishermen subsist on carcasses that the fisheries throw out.
The black rhinoceros is endangered, but for US$150,000, you can kill one at Mauricedale Game Ranch in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The money goes toward conserving the ranch’s other rhinos. Between 1996 and 2010, the South African black rhino population rose from 1,200 to 1,915.
New Chinese wealth is fueling a luxury market of exotic animal products. Between 2007 and 2010, the Chinese government seized more than 22 tonnes of illegal animal imports, including over seven tonnes of toothless pangolin anteater carcasses. The endangered animal’s scales can sell for US$1,000 a kilogram.
India’s sacred cows cannot be euthanized when injured, so farmers sooth them with the painkiller diclofenac. Now, 97 percent of India’s vultures have disappeared, poisoned by the drugged carcasses they scavenge. Since diclofenac was banned for veterinary use in 2005, human pharmacies sell it in cow-sized doses.
From the pages of COLORS #85 - Going to Market.