sushi studentSustainable sushi is a new movement driven by the need to balance our food supply with our insatiable demand for sushi. Due to the overfishing of some species, guides are now available to help consumers choose food items that will have less environmental impact. The sustainable sushi guides help consumers determine what fish are becoming endangered by overfishing and often list the fish by both the English name and the Japanese name. The pocket guides want people to ask if the sushi they are getting was caught or farmed, allowing them to make responsible decisions when dining.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s guide is slightly more focused on the health of the consumer as well as the health of the oceans. The Defense Fund also, for example, lists Bluefin Tuna as a no-no because overfishing has caused the population of the fish to drop 90% in 30 years. Other “pass on this” selections are; farmed arctic char, red snapper, freshwater eel and monkfish.

The idea is to get more sushi chefs and restaurants to become ocean friendly. Americans love sushi and normally do not think to ask about the types of fish being served or whether they are thriving or dwindling in the ocean waters. Four conservations groups have guides coming out but the Environmental Defense Fund is said to be more informational than the others because it also lists the health benefits of each fish. The ideal is for sushi restaurants to serve more locally produced fish and also to back off from those nearing endangerment. Most seafood restaurants are already on the same page but many feel the sushi industry is dragging their heels which is what prompted the guides.

Besides the guides there are now online pages (including the SushiFAQ Sustainable Sushi Guide) that help consumers to know which fish to steer away from and which are good to go. With more and more focus on the environment it was only a matter of time before this movement took off. Sustainable sushi is all about becoming more environmentally aware and ocean friendly.

The only problem with the guides is that the ecosystem and the conditions in the ocean are constantly changing. What is said to be a safe fish today may not be safe at all tomorrow. The guides promoters have set up websites to keep the public informed of any updates that come along and if any new fish wind up on the “do not eat” list. Currently, farmed salmon is an “eat all you want” fish and has the green light from all concerned. Bluefin Tuna seems to be in real trouble and people are being greatly encouraged not to eat it and to ask if the tuna at a sushi restaurant is actually Bluefin tuna.

There has been a boon in popularity for sushi and fish in general since it became known that fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids. Since then more people have begun eating fish and the oceans are now being converged on by more fishing boats. Our oceans are over fished and the population of many of the species is dwindling. So now that we have found a healthy food that we like (in general) we are told not to eat some of it.

While restaurants in general and seafood restaurants have been fairly quick to take up the hint and start serving ocean friendly fish, it seems to be the sushi restaurants that are doing the most balking. Probably due to the increase in popularity in fish since the health benefits of fish have been realized. It seems that even being environmentally aware, they would still do a great business. So they shouldn’t serve Bluefin tuna, how about Yellowfin? There are just too many other options to hold out on a list of fish that will be out of existence all together if they are not left to reproduce.

It has taken the world long enough to become environmentally aware and it stands to reason that if the consumer becomes aware, they are going to demand that the services they obtain and the products they consume are made by businesses that are also environmentally aware.

Future generations depend on the choices we make today. If we aren’t careful there may not be sushi as we know it for our children and their children. Unless we conserve the resources we have now, we will all suffer. If the Bluefin tuna and other species of fish were given time to recoup from their losses recovery is not out of the question. It is time that restaurants are made to understand the criticality of this issue. Educating yourself is the first step in helping address this situation.  We need to halt the over fishing of many species of fish and animals. There are many alternate choices the sushi industry can make as there are other types of fish that are just as good. We can all agree that sushi is delicious and worth saving. Let’s do what we can to make sure it can be enjoyed by future generations as well. Read our guide to sustainable sushi or find one of the many available find out what you should and should not order next time you go out for fish or sushi. It all begins with you.

Sushi Otaku

Warren Ransom

I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.

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