Eat this, not that

Sustainable Sushi: Mashiko says "Sayonara, unagi."

Plus three fish you should never order at the sushi bar, and what to eat instead.

By Karen Quinn August 19, 2009

The whole genius of sushi is that it’s simple, no? No. For responsible noshers, devouring sweet, succulent slices of fish over rice is more complicated than it seems.

The problem is, as sushi restaurants have sprung up around the country, so have countless unsustainable fisheries all over the world (and badly-behaving fish farms right in our back yards). This is a bad thing.

But there’s hope. Casson Trenor, sushi connoisseur and author of Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time is here to help you go green, just like he did with Seattle sushi chef Hajime Sato. With Trenor’s help, Sato worked to rev up the responsibility factor on his menu and on August 15th it happened: Mashiko became Seattle’s first (and the country’s third) totally sustainable sushi restaurant.

When at Mashiko, then, order what you like. But what happens when you’re at other sushi spots? Here three sorts of sealife Trenor says you should never order off a sushi menu, and three others you should eat instead.

Bluefin Tuna Meat for “toro” comes from the belly of a Bluefin Tuna, a valuable fish that will soon be completely depleted unless we curb consumption. For the “fatty, supple, orgasmic experience” of Bluefin, Trenor suggests trying domestic, pole-caught albacore tuna, which is sustainable and “equally, if not more, delicious.”

Eel Unagi, that slightly sweet, flakey delicacy that lies innocently on top of your sushi roll is actually captured in the wild, transported to over-crowded farms in China, fattened, and pumped with antibiotics before being slaughtered and shipped overseas. According to Trenor, eel stocks have declined by 95—99% in the last 30 years. “This is a textbook example of how to destroy a species,” he warns. To replace that perfect eel texture, try Canadian sablefish or domestic catfish instead.

Farmed Salmon Salmon farms in the Pacific Northwest poison the native populations in the region by breeding parasites that escape into the open ocean and attack defenseless young salmon just after they hatch. Seattleites should shun salmon farming by always demanding wild salmon when it’s in season, or replacing it with Arctic char when the salmon season ends.

Thanks to Becky Selengut, whose sustainable sushi tweets inspired the assignment of this story.


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