Sanma is a seasonal fish in Japan; it is fished off coastal waters in late August into the autumn. It is a long, thin, silvery fish and it’s kanji 秋刀魚 are literally Autumn – Sword – Fish.

Sanma are often served grilled whole with salt with a squeeze of sudachi or lime, and are used in sushi, too. They were considered poor people’s food because they are strongly fishy. Also they were abundant and cheap.

Unfortunately, the last few years the catch has been disappointing with smaller catches of younger fish, and somewhat later than usual, so sanma are becoming a delicacy. This can be chalked up to three factors: warmer waters (climate change) in the shallow depths where they live, competition for food with sardines, and overfishing.

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