When Pauly and others took a longer view, they noticed another worrying trend. Humanity had been eating its way down the ocean’s food web; as large marine predators became scarce, people developed a taste for smaller and smaller fish. Animals that were once used for bait or that were considered worthless (hagfish, sea cucumber) were later taken in large quantities for human consumption.Yum. Meanwhile, Japan, which scarfs down a quarter of the world's tuna catch, has agreed to reduce its fishing quotas for southern bluefin tuna and Atlantic bluefin—the fish used in sushi—because stocks are being depleted. It's not clear how strictly the fishing limits will be obeyed, though: Apparently, fisherman caught twice their legal quota of bluefin tuna in European waters this year. It's probably only a matter of time before bluefin goes extinct altogether, and we really do have to eat jellyfish sushi. The Times did a "light" piece a while back about the rise of deer-meat sushi, although the ravaging of the oceans is fairly unnerving.
"Bait thirty years ago was calamari," Pauly told me. "Now it is served in a restaurant. It is very nice. But it was bait before." Future generations, Pauly predicts, only half in jest, will grow up on jellyfish sandwiches.