Bay Area Sushi Bars Face Daunting Supply Shortages

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) – Bay Area sushi bars and other restaurants that rely heavily on Japanese seafood are facing shipping delays and supply shortages following last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

At Umi on Potrero Hil, owner and executive chef Stewart Chen has a large variety of fish from the Japanese markets.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

“We have sea bass, tako (octopus), tobiuo (flying fish),” said Chen. “All this is from Japan, from all over Japan.”

About half the fish Chen serves comes from Japan, with the other half from local markets and fisheries.

But he’s already starting to see the impact of the earthquake on overseas deliveries.

“There are a lot of delays, especially the fish that might be a special request. They have been saying, we don’t have that,” he said.

Umi is one of several sushi restaurants in the Bay Area that is expecting long-lasting effects from the disaster in Japan.

But it’s not only restaurants that are suffering. I Love Blue Sea, a San Francisco sustainable seafood provider, said they’ve already seen a drop in the availability of the popular Hokkaido scallops.

It’s thought that what product is available in Japan will be saved for restaurants in that country, and restaurants and distributors in the United States could see lower quality seafood being shipped overseas.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Kathleen Chung-Lee

    Great.. =( now Sushi is gonna be even more expensive.

    • RedGerry

      Sad selfish people…. thousands dead, even more missing and your worrying about your sushi supplies. Frankly you disgust me, please stay in San francisco so the rest of us humans know where to avoid. Attitudes like this are far more poisonous than any radiation…

      • Harp

        I think the article is explaining the economic effects we will face here as a result of the disasters in Japan. Sushi supplies are just one of the first markets to get hit considering the shelf life of the product. You can expect to hear about a lot more industry being effected in the days to come. I don’t believe if its selfish, more of an observation. Sushi bars may not be hurting to the degree that the Japanese people are, but their livelihood is in danger and you can’t just discount that because the disaster over there is bigger.4

      • Jedì Chrome

        Yes, because worrying about your business and taking care of your family is selfish. /eyeroll

      • Kristine N. Stone

        Amen! What is this focus on sushi when so many have died and countless are suffering. We don’t want radio active fish, what lame ass comemnt is that? Frankly, these people make me sick to my stomach!

      • More FIsh in Da Sea

        I agree. The whole point of this article isn’t about saving businesses or jobs. There are frikkin fish in waters all over the world. Get yer supply elsewhere until Japan can recover.

        In the meantime, why not think of the millions of people suffering, starving and freezing, instead of a handful of restaurants in the Bay Area and whether or not an interruption of kanpachi and toro shipments is gonna put a sushi restaurant’s staff on the unemployment roles. What a waste of an article.

      • Joe Mamma

        What will the rest of the world miss when San Fransisco slides into the ocean during their next earthquake? Probably nothing.

      • kate


      • Wayne

        Agree totally. Awww the next thing you know the wine and cheese will be contaminated.

      • Doug Anderson

        Life still has to go on…….It is very tragic….but so is not being able to earn a living because of a product supply problem…..Ill eat the glowing sushi, IF thats all ya got! Yummmm….. Raw fish shortage……go fishin…..problem solved.

    • chase

      The cost of sushi doesn’t bother me as much as the prospect of eating radioactive fish. All fish imported from Japanese waters should now be checked for radiation levels, BEFORE shipping and AFTER arriving on our shores.

      • icetrout

        If it smells like fish eat all you wish :)

    • Johnny Dangerously

      Oh the humanity!!! Guess you’ll have to settle for prime rib or shrimp coctail… =(

      Perhaps you can get some of those folks in Japan who are mourning deceased relatives, homeless in freezing temps, or are worried about where their family’s next meal is going to come from to send you some money to subsidize your sushi habit.

      • gt

        I think you kind of missed the point of the article. It was basically to show the far ranging economic impact of the earthquake. Also, I doubt you’d be so flippant about this if you owned a business in San Francisco that depended on its supply from Japan. Is the prospect of your business going bankrupt as bad as losing your life in an earthquake? No, but it is far from a small concern. If your economic future was based on your restaurant and that future had now been placed in jeopardy I think you’d be a little concerned as well.

        In short, think before you type.

    • Johnny Dangerously

      Oh the humanity!!! Guess you’ll have to settle for prime rib or shrimp coctail… =(

      Perhaps you can get some of those folks in Japan who are mourning deceased relatives, homeless in freezing temps, or are worried about where their family’s next meal is going to come from to send you some money to subsidize your sushi habit.

      Nice way to represent America there…

  • Lisa Joseph

    There are people in Japan who have lost everything, who are facing shortages and trying to live from hour to hour. Be thankful you have something to eat instead of worrying about sushi supplies.

    • Glenn

      Thank you!

    • missing the point

      and if you owned a sushi restaurant?

    • Dismas

      Thank you Lisa Joseph for putting this in perspective. My gosh, as SFers frown about whats not on their plates, people in Japan are fighting for their next breath.

    • Wayne

      Should we similarly not “worry” about a shortage of iodine tablets?

      • Wayne

        I think you missed the point, Ron.

      • Ron

        No……you shouldn’t. Iodine Tablets aren’t going to help you if there is an emergency. There is a shortage of Potassium IodiDe Tablets. So no, don’t worry, for now, about a shortage, of which there is none, of Iodine Tablets.

      • Another Wayne

        If you are in the U.S., Iodide tablets are more likely to hurt you that any low level radiation from Japan. Come on folks. Take a deep breath and settle down. It isn’t the end of the world and the sky is not falling.

    • Seth H

      I’ll second that!!

    • Ta's Healing Center

      I third that. Thank you Lisa!

  • Jin Rickard

    I am a sushi chef in San Francisco. Our restaurant received a call from the fish company the day after the initial tragedy in Japan. Due to transportation problems and the overall chaos the supply will be short or limited. It is not so important as compared to the loss of life and destruction that Japan is experiencing. We will make due. Prayers to the people of Japan. Ganbare!

    • Sofa Kingdom

      There are latinos with the last name Rickard?

      • Azul

        Who said he was Latino?

        and yes there are Latinos with white last names.

        just saying…

  • A Nonny

    Two thoughts:
    1. Kathleen has got to be the shallowest, most self-centered person I’ve ever encountered.
    2. At least some fish will live for a while longer. Their lives matter, too.

    • dday

      Yes, their live matter to feed people and other animals/fish.

    • Whatchoobe Smokin

      Well. You sure showed them!

      Two thoughts:
      1. Since you know so much about Kathleen, what she does for a living, and especially what’s going on inside her head, clearly your psychic powers could be lucrative. You could be the next Ms. Cleo!

      2. If we eat the fish, at least the other marine life lower on the food chain will live longer. Their lives matter, too.

  • righturn

    Save the endangered sushi.

  • Troy

    Glad to know this reporter thinks their sushi shortage is so important when thousands of people have died and will die due to the event in Japan. Talk about being shallow and talk about a paper and an editor who has no clue in life to even print this story.

  • Teacakes

    If you are worried about sushi supplies then your priorities have run amuck. Aside from that, you should read a good parasitology textbook and then tell me if you still want to eas raw fish.

    • Reality Sandwich

      That’s why good sushi only uses deep-sea ocean fish. That aside, prayers for the victims in Japan. We can manage without luxuries for a long time.

    • Sofa Kingdom

      Nobody has mentioned about mutated/deformed fishes from radiation exposure. Do you really want to eat them now?

      • Tom W

        Mutant fish? Cool. That might actually INCREASE the supply available for sushi. Maybe Toro wont be so expensive if the fish grow to the size of whales.

        I see a movie coming: “The sushi that ate San Francisco”

      • Rick James

        How much irradiated food do we eat now?

  • liamascorcaigh

    Is this the San Francisco franchise of ‘The Onion’?

  • sj

    Nippon, ganbatte kudasai. And please forgive the insensitivity of the azz whole that thought this was important during this time of struggle and devastation.

    • Bobarian

      This borders on unforgivable. Makes me ashamed to be a human. This is worse than the Xtian Fundies claiming Japan deserved it for being Godless heathens.

  • Hurricane05

    Prayers and thoughts of recovery for the people of Japan from Texas,USA.

  • Bobarian

    Congratulations, you’ve set a new standard for insensitivity.
    Why would you even print this story?

    Salvage your last shred of integrity and pull it.

  • kyle

    What kind of a stupid story is this? Who cares about the sushi shortage when there are thousands dead and dying? Another great piece of reporting done by CBS. Figures readers and watchers in the gross hipster San Fran area would actually think this story was newsworthy . Please pray for and try to donate to the relief effort instead of worrying about this fad food.

  • JH

    Why are they printing this story? Because it’s news. It illuminates connections in business, economics, and people and is worth knowing – that’s why. Printing this story certainly doesn’t detract from the travesty of the situation or sorrow that goes out to the people of Japan, and anyone of rational thought wouldn’t make such broad and simple-minded assumption.

    • DB

      this is not news in the least. This would be akin to an article expressing angst over dwindling kosher food supply during the Holocaust. I mean isnt it common sense that, after a country experiences a TRAGIC DISASTER, that one of the many exports the country is famous for will not be as readily available. This is just insensitive and callous.

    • Another Wayne

      The media has gone totally nuts on this one. Maybe predicting the end of the world will boost readership?

  • Japan earthquake/tsunami - Page 4 - Striper Talk Striped Bass Fishing, Surfcasting, Boating

    […] Bay Area Sushi Bars Face Daunting Supply Shortages CBS San Francisco They're out of sushi. OMG what are they gonna do now […]

  • Wayne

    Some of the same posters who think it is somehow “insensitive” to discuss a shortage of Sushi, and self-righteously pontificate about how people have “lost their lives” (you think the people talking about a Sushi shortage don’t already know that?) probably aren’t bothered in the least by similar articles which discuss a shortage of iodine tablets.

  • Hurricane05

    We ALL know that what has happened in Japan is going to have a broad and negative effect worldwide in many arenas. It’s just a little too soon to start worrying about whether or not we get sushi or cars , ok? Let them at least finish looking for their dead before we start being concerned about the economic impact on OUR country. And YES it does detract , it makes us look like the greedy, consumption obsessed society that we are!

    • Susan

      How does having more information IN ANY WAY detract from the sensitivity to what’s happening? People have a right to know what’s going on (or shall we limit the sharing of factual information?). Being aware of what’s going on, why, and how in no way takes away from the condolences, well wishes, and prayers for Japan.

  • Sally

    Whining libs complaining about a SUSHI SHORTAGE omgggggggg typical-

    • Susan

      I’m conservative Sally, and your comment is intended to express, what…?

  • Dee

    Perhaps some of these sushi restaurants could have some fundraisers for the people of Japan instead of whining about seabass and scallops. I am certain your Japanese patrons would happily resort to rice only if it helps their homeland. This story is quite insensitive and makes the US sound selfish.

  • Harriet

    Time for a round of golf!

  • Chris

    Yeah the reporter is shallow. But it’s okay if Obama spends his time on the golf course, doing his NCAA bracket picks, going to parties for ST Patties day, going to a party for the news org, or going on a trip to Latin America to visit three countries. Meanwhile four reactors are in serious trouble thousands have died, Lybia is bombing the people who are trying to run the nut out of office there, Eygpt won’t meet with Hillary since she had little faith that they could oust her friend, Saudi Arabia moves thousands of troops into Bahrain without telling the US but our President is more worried about bullys and womens health to be bothered by any of this. Lets not mention the fact that we have a huge fight over the budget that he has be running from. But this reporter is shallow. Give me a break. He might as well be reporting on something as lame as this because it’s apparent the people in the country have blinders on. Any bets on if he get re-elected or not? I got a lunch bet on it. Just keep the blinders on people. A liberal is a person who has nothing at stake at the moment.

  • Tami

    You mean ANOTHER ROUND OF GOLF!!!! disgraceful mentality between sound bytes of non stop preaching- maybe another vacation is in order or another soiree! No amount of spin will ever change the impression left- very disappointing- this insensitive story about sushi is typical indeed!!

  • Marshall

    I like my Sushi medium-well done.

  • GetReal

    Self righteous PC idiots who object to this story have no sympathy for the many Japanese restaurant and fish market employees, who make only a very modest living as it is, being economically hard hit as a result of this horrible and widespread tragedy in Japan. Political correctness is the worst form of self-indulgence in the face of such a tragedy.

    • Dan

      These modest seafood owners are not about political anything but I will imagine they are very grateful to be here despite being surrounded by selfish Californians. They are no worse off than the people of Lousiana who are still out of business due to their own government.

  • Keith G

    Nice to see the folks at KCBS have their priorities straight. Thousands of people have lost their lives, near countless homes and businesses destroyed, nuclear plants on the verge of great disaster, and a whole country set back for many years to come….and they are laminting the fact that their raw fish supply is going to be interrupted! Reminds me of the tale of “Nero fiddling while Rome burned”. Yet again, one more reason to wall off San Francisco and make it a country all unto itself because they are so out of touch with mainstream America.

  • Mike Favs

    Has anyone noticed how hard it is to find a good pair of Ben-Wah balls these days as well??

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