Japanese eel becomes latest 'endangered food'

Japanese eel becomes latest 'endangered food'

Is it time for Japanese restaurants to say goodbye to unagi?
Unagi -- too much is a bad thing.

Bad news for food-obssessed travelers to Japan. 

Unagi -- the sweet broiled eel dish that's one of Japan's best eats -- may soon be going the way of shark's fins and fish balls: it gets overfished (check), it gets put on an endangered list (check) and it gets banned from restaurants (maybe). 

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment officially added Japanese eel to its Red List of endangered fish on Friday, reported Yomiuri Shimbun

According to the ministry's count, the species has declined by an alarming 90 percent over the last three generations. Yomiuiri Shumbun reported that the eel populations are 5 percent of what they were in the 1960s.

Blame the delicious offerings of unadon (eel-topped rice) dishes at Japanese restaurants, which account for approximately 70 percent of all eel dishes eaten in the country. 

Although the Red List doesn't come with bans or immediate regulations, Japan's Fisheries Agency is reportedly considering regulations to address the situation.

In Japan, Japanese eel is considered the most delicious of the eel species. However, it comprises just 30 percent of the country's eel consumption.

The rest is supplied by China and Taiwan, and to a lesser degree by the United States, Southeast Asia, Australia and Africa.

More on CNN: Food map: Eat your way around Japan

Frances Cha is a Digital Producer at CNN Travel. 


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