The Science of Sustainability

Green Sushi

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This sushi is good enough to eat.
Photo credit: Andrea Kissack.
If you are a sushi lover, they can make your mouth water just thinking about them, bite sized pieces of Hamachi (yellow tail tuna), Ebi (shrimp), red snapper and Toro (Bluefin tuna) over vinegar sweetened rice. Can’t you just taste the raw fish delicacies right now? But, not so fast, these popular sushi items may not be the best thing you could do for yourself or the sea. They are either over-fished, farmed with aquaculture methods that pollute the ocean, are caught using methods that destroy ocean habitats or they are likely to contain contaminants, such as PCBs and Mercury, that can harm human health.

There is a new trend in town. Sustainable sushi. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, and two other ocean conservation groups (Blue Ocean Institute and Environmental Defense Fund), have come out with new advice for making better sushi choices. Modeled after the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s popular Seafood Watch Pocket Guide, the new sustainable sushi guide helps consumers make informed choices by categorizing seafood into three areas: Green (or best choice), Yellow (or good alternative) and Red (what to avoid). Just what kind of sushi you should avoid may surprise you. Until now, Unagi (bbq eel with avocado), seemed pretty harmless and a good choice for reluctant sushi eaters. Well, Unagi is farmed, freshwater juvenile eel so that definitely gets a red light from the Seafood Watch folks. You can try a sustainable alternative to Unagi at Tataki Sushi Bar in San Francisco. It may be the only restaurant of it’s kind in the country. The owners of the all sustainable sushi restaurant say they don’t want to become a niche as much as they want to influence the rest of the industry to change its’ practices. And with sushi a growing multibillion dollar industry, consumer preferences can have a big impact.

So how do you green your sushi? Try Pacific Halibut, farmed scallop or North American Albacore. Monterey Bay Aquarium biologists consider these among the “best” seafood because they come from abundant, well-managed fisheries or are raised using sustainable aquaculture methods.

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Category: Biology, Environment, Health, Partners, Sustainable Food

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About the Author ()

Andrea is KQED's Senior Science Editor . Andrea was born in Los Angeles and discovered radio news through listening to her college radio station. With a curious mind and a love for telling stories, she set off for Tampa where she landed her first job as a reporter for Florida Public Radio. After three years reporting in an unbearably humid climate and a brief stint as a miscast opera reporter, Andrea returned to L.A. to work for public radio, then for television news and finally as a reporter for CBS radio. Andrea has been at KQED for over twelve years, working first as a producer for Forum, and then as the senior producer for The California Report. She is now KQED's Senior Science and Environment Editor and narrates the QUEST television program. Andrea says she feels lucky to cover emerging science and environmental trends in a place where geek is chic.
  • Sheila663

    Nice story!

    Just a quick note: When you see hamachi on the menu it refers to a fish called yellow tail, but it isn't a tuna.

  • http://theleatherdistrictgourmet.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/the-sustainable-sush-trifecta-blue-ocean-institute-floats-our-boat/ Jacqueline Church

    I want to invite your readers to join our sustainable seafood blog event. Top chefs, food bloggers and writers sharing sustainable seafood recipes. And – sushi experiences this year! I am helping to gather and disseminate resources and info – along with great recipes and stories. Runs through end of October – National (Sustainable) Seafood Month.

    – Jacqueline Church
    The Leather District Gourmet [at] WordPress [dot] com

  • nate

    while i agree with the premise of sustainable sushi, it is not. the advent of sushi occurred with the invention of the refrigerator. shipping the sushi across country is not sustainable no matter how many carbon offsets are purchased.