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  • Narrator: This is the most expensive fish in Japan.

  • In January 2018,

  • a kilogram of these baby eels cost around $35,000.

  • That's more than bluefin tuna,

  • and almost as much as the price of gold at the time.

  • But catching these eels is just the beginning.

  • It can take a year of work

  • until they're large enough to be sold.

  • So what makes these eels so popular?

  • And why are they so expensive?

  • People in Japan have eaten eel for thousands of years.

  • Restaurants like this can sell 40 to 50 tons

  • of eel each year.

  • Japanese eel, or Anguilla japonica,

  • can be found across East Asia,

  • but overfishing and changing habitats

  • have caused a huge decline in eel populations.

  • Since 1980, the global catch of eel

  • has declined by more than 75%,

  • which has had a huge effect on price.

  • Narrator: Unlike other types of fishing,

  • the majority of eels are raised, not caught as adults.

  • Young eels, called glass eels, are caught in the wild

  • and raised on farms like this.

  • No farms have been able to efficiently

  • breed the eels in captivity.

  • So farmers depend on the catch of young eels

  • to make a profit.

  • Narrator: Raising this many eels

  • requires constant attention.

  • Michio has been working as an eel farmer

  • for almost 40 years.

  • Narrator: After the cost of the eels themselves,

  • feeding them is the most expensive part.

  • Two to three times a day, workers feed eels this.

  • It's a mixture of fish meal, wheat,

  • soybean meal, and fish oil.

  • Narrator: After six to 12 months of work,

  • eels are big enough to be sold.

  • Workers unload the eels and sort them by size

  • to determine where they'll be sold.

  • Experienced workers can quickly tell the difference

  • just by feel.

  • Some of these eels will end up at restaurants

  • like Surugaya, which has been serving eel

  • for over 150 years.

  • That high demand is part of the reason

  • young eels are so expensive.

  • The final dish is called kabayaki.

  • It may look simple,

  • but preparing it takes years to master.

  • Narrator: Workers prepare eel alive to maintain freshness,

  • but this makes handling much more difficult.

  • Workers remove the bones and cut eels

  • to the proper size for the skewers.

  • Narrator: Eel has to be constantly monitored

  • while it's cooking to achieve even grilling.

  • Narrator: Chefs steam, then grill each eel three times,

  • dipping it into sauce between each grilling.

  • Narrator: Kabayaki presented in a lacquer box

  • with rice is called unajū.

  • It can cost up to $91 depending on the price of adult eel.

  • If prices are too high,

  • restaurants struggle to make a profit.

  • Narrator: In Japan, eels are eaten year-round,

  • but consumption peaks in the summer,

  • and it's become a big part of some local economies.

  • But the high demand has caused concern.

  • In 2014, Japanese eels were classified as endangered,

  • and because of low domestic catch,

  • the majority of eels eaten in Japan

  • are imported from China and Taiwan.

  • Narrator: There have been efforts to improve

  • the eel population, like regulating fishing,

  • releasing adult eels back into the water,

  • and researching how to hatch eels in farms.

  • But the future of Japanese eels remains unclear,

  • and the price is likely to increase with demand.

Narrator: This is the most expensive fish in Japan.

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Why Japanese Eel Is So Expensive | So Expensive

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/23
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