While we're all very familiar with the sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table movements, sustainable seafood has gotten lost in the shuffle. With all the sushi Americans consume each year, you'd think there would be more concern for the history of how sashimi gets to your table and what's done to the environment in the process.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, "Sustainable seafood is from sources, either fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production into the long-term without jeopardizing the affected ecosystems."
It's easy to go uninformed about your fish if you don't ask questions. Most sushi restaurants don't provide specific origins, and asking a chef can be intimidating but might be the only way to get a clear answer.
Thankfully, on October 22, new sustainable seafood/sushi wallet guides will help arm you for your conversation. Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium held a tasting event at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan recently to promote these guides, which are color-coded to indicate how smart your seafood choices are, from environmentally-friendly fishing and farming practices to health concerns. The tasting menu at the event was provided by the first all-sustainable sushi restaurant in the country, Tataki, in San Francisco: the mouth-watering rolls included suzuki (striped bass), amaebi (sweet shrimp), and a deluxe sashimi plate including yellowfin tuna, wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and skipjack tuna, among others.
More info about the guides, some of the surprising listings, and more resources, after the jump.
Here's the key from the guides:
for the best environmental and health choices
for sufficient alternatives
for what to avoid
A good portion of popular seafood consumed in America is listed in the red category, including Atlantic Halibut, Bluefin tuna, Imported King crab, Atlantic or farmed salmon, octopus, and freshwater eel. Some of the most popular sustainable choices include U.S. caught Albacore tuna, Alaska wild salmon, and U.S. farmed shrimp.
For better choices, here are some steps you can take:
1. Ask the chef.
2. Reference your guide.
3. If you're without the guide, text "FISH" and the species name to 30644.
4. Visit fishphone.org to view a guide on your phone.
5. Then, at home, visit any of these online guides, provided by Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, and Monterey Bay Aquarium.
You can order the print guides to be mailed, but you will also be able to view the updated listings online as well. I recommend getting the print version—they're perfectly sized for the credit card slot in your wallet, and your friends will clearly see how serious you are about your sushi.