Tokyo Cut Out Its Ocean Heart for the Olympics

The loss of the old Tsukiji Fish Market is a national tragedy

Paul Greenberg
7 min readAug 1, 2021


A skilled fish cutter at the now demolished Tuskiji fish market takes on a tuna loin (photo by Paul Greenberg)

Tokyo, you have cut out your ocean heart as we in New York have cut out ours. You should have taken a moment to pause before you demolished a market with a long and illustrious past. You should have paused and considered the ocean and the fishermen who harvest its treasures and the difficult future they are facing.

These thoughts drifted up in my mind as I watched a dispirited Olympics, devoid of crowds and sound-tracked by automated cheers. They came to me after a decade of looking into the troubled history of fisheries in my own country. My home city of Manhattan has lost both its world class fish market and much of its local fishing fleet. We are poorer because of it. And now Japan is too.

I first came to know about New York’s version of Tsukiji a little over a decade ago when I moved to the far southern end of the island of Manhattan. On the first morning in my new home I rose early and set out to explore the neighborhood. Just past Water Street the feel of the neighborhood started to change and the ghost of a former incarnation started to reveal itself. Finally I reached a metal warehouse built during the 1930s. Weeping with water stains, it bore a straightforward, working person’s declaration of purpose on its façade:

Fulton Fish Market · City of New York · Department of Markets

I had happened upon what had once been a seafood market even more famous than Tsukiji. But in 2005, nobody seemed to care that it still existed. Once upon a time the Fulton Fish Market was the primary point of entry for nearly every piece of seafood New Yorkers ate.

New York’s now abandoned Fulton Fish Market (photo by Paul Greenberg)

New York’s fishing past is not so distant as one might think. As recently as 1929, an edition of the Fishing Gazette reported that a hundred fishermen were registered to live in “the village” of Brooklyn. In Jamaica Bay, where Kennedy Airport now sits, a “prolific fishing ground for scallops and many terrapin were found along its marshy shores.” Up until the 1920s, enough lobsters and shellfish were taken off…



Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World