Anchovy Extinction: Futurama Fantasy or Reality?

Over the years, the animated series “Futurama” has given fans a grim look at what the world might look like at the turn of the 31st century. Arguably, its darkest what-if scenario was raised in the 1999 episode “A Fishful of Dollars,” when Fry discovers that anchovies went extinct in the 23rd century. Upon hearing the news, Fry feared that he might never taste anchovies – or his beloved anchovy pizza – ever again.

In the name of science (sci-fi science?), The Sauce endeavored to find out whether anchovy pizza will go the way of the dodo bird or continue to be a polarizing pizza parlor staple. After hours of painstaking research and cartoon watching, here’s what we learned:

First, a bit on Futurama.

In this installment of Futurama, the perpetually broke Fry has to bail Bender out of jail after his sticky metal fingers get him into trouble. Desperate to help, Fry suddenly remembers that the PIN number to his 1,000-year old bank account is the cost of a plain pie and large soda at the pizzeria he worked at in 1999. Thanks to the interest rate, Fry’s 93 cents blossomed into $4.3 billion.

Fry immediately begins a spending spree that would make Mike Tyson blush. But, after procuring Ted Danson’s skeleton and other outlandish relics, he learns that the anchovy is deader than disco and buys the world’s last tin of the good stuff.

Unfortunately, Fry finds himself at war with Futurama’s main antagonist, Mom. Although she is a wholesome spokesperson on TV, Mom is a ruthless business tycoon behind the scenes and fears that anchovy oil could render her money-making Old Fashioned Robot Oil useless.

Using the power of mind control, Mom forced a lucid dream upon Fry in which Pamela Anderson orders a cheese pizza and large soda from him in the 20th century. Using Fry’s PIN number, she bankrupts our redheaded hero and gets his artifacts repossessed, but Fry was savvy enough to keep the anchovy tin in his sock.

Mom returns with an offer to buy the prized tin, but Fry is not quite savvy enough to know its true value. Rather than selling out, Fry declares that he’ll eat the anchovies with his friends.

“These anchovies are going on a pizza!,” Fry says. “So I can share the food I love with the people I like.”

Fry’s sweet gesture was not necessarily appreciated.

As Fry savored his fishy slice, the rest of his cohorts spit out their pizza. Zoidberg, however, is drawn to the “heavenly stench” of the regurgitated pizza and wolfs it down instantly. Zoidberg asks for seconds, but he does not take kindly to the bad news:

Robot oil and advanced mind control aside, this part of the saga draws strongly from reality. As Slice recently discovered, 24% of pizza eaters say they love anchovies, but 76% want nothing to do with them.

Are anchovies on the verge of extinction?

You may be surprised to learn that anchovies, which three-quarters of Americans do not want anywhere near their pizza, have been overfished to the point of threatening their sustainability.

In 2008, the Marine Conservation Society listed the anchovy as a “fish to avoid” for ethical consumers. Since then, many anchovy-loving countries such as Peru have since capped or outlawed anchovy fishing during its peak months to ensure the continuation of the species.

Here in the states, a federal judge recently ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service has not been doing enough to protect diminutive anchovies off of California’s coast. The agency must now adjust its catch limit, which will aid in the repopulation of those delightfully briny creatures.

With that, anchovy pizza lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. Anchovies still have a fight ahead of them, but appropriate measures are being taken worldwide in order to prevent Futurama’s nightmare scenario from becoming a reality.

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