Many of us have heard the problems associated with seafood: overfishing, bycatch and habitat destruction. Is it possible to keep our ocean thriving, and eat our sushi, too?
Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund and Monterey Bay Aquarium recently released public color-coded consumer guides that allow environmentally conscious sushi-lovers to order sushi based on how the fish were caught. Popular fish that were prepared using farmed-in ways will be ranked lower than others. The color-coded guide will make it easier for sushi eaters to evaluate their how their seafood purchases will impact ocean wildlife.
The highest-ranking selections in the new color-coded guides will be those that fall into the category of most sustainable and fished from abundant sources. Very low ranking choices would typically include bluefin tuna and freshwater eel. Alaska salmon, on the other hand, would fall into the high-ranked category of fish. These guides will be available online, in print and accessible via mobile devices.
Tuna is one example of a fish we may be eating to death. Sushi-lovers worldwide love bluefin tuna belly for its rich flavor and texture. Regrettably, our appetite for tuna has led to overfishing and the near demise of this beautiful species.
Bluefin are caught in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea. More than 31 nations, including the U.S. and Japan, are trying to manage these highly migratory species. Sadly, the Atlantic population of Bluefin has declined by nearly 90% since the 1970s. These fish are slow to mature and, unfortunately, many young fish are caught before they have the chance to reproduce.
Fishermen use a variety of methods to catch bluefin tuna, including longlines and purse seines. Even when they’re “dolphin-safe,” purse seines catch tons of unwanted fish and other animals, called bycatch. Longlines entangle and kill sea turtles, seabirds and sharks and endanger their populations.
So what can you do? Avoid ordering bluefin tuna. Try albacore tuna (shiro maguro) instead. It tastes like bluefin and is a best choice when troll caught in the U.S. or Canada. Use your phone to log on to mobile.seafoodwatch.org. Their recommendations will help you make good choices when you visit a sushi bar. Talk to the chef and ask about the seasonal, sustainable seafood choices they offer. Ask if the seafood is farmed or wild, how it was caught and where it’s from.
Some of the most sustainable sushi include:
- Sardines (iwashi)
- Skipjack tuna (katsuo)
- Horse mackerel (aji)
- Wild salmon (sake)
- Dungeness crab (kani)
- Spot prawns (ama ebi)
The least sustainable sushi include:
- Bluefin tuna
- Freshwater Eel
- Red snapper (tai)
- Octopus (tako)