Get Your Chopsticks Ready for Sustainable Sushi

Hope you don't like octopus, eel, or bluefin tuna too much—they've been red-listed.

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Your mouth may water at the thought of California rolls, spicy tuna, and crispy eel, but the ecofriendliness of ingredients on the menu of your favorite sushi varies widely. Three conservation organizations are helping consumers make better sushi choices with new sustainable sushi guidelines, which were released today. The Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, and Monterey Bay Aquarium have developed color-coded guides that classify the sustainability and health risks of common sushi menu items, both in English and Japanese. The guides can be printed out or downloaded to mobile phones.

Green sushi lovers may be disappointed to see a few of their favorite ingredients on the "do not buy" list. Love the taste of octopus, bluefin tuna, freshwater eel, or farmed salmon? You're out of luck. Choices on the red list, according to a joint press release from the organizations, are "overfished, farmed with aquaculture methods that pollute the ocean, or caught using methods that destroy ocean habitats or kill large amounts of other sea life." Look instead to the wild Alaskan salmon and pollock, crab, squid, and farmed bass.

The responsibility to choose sustainable sushi may lie with the consumer because, as Gourmet magazine notes, many sushi chefs are slow to jump on the sustainability bandwagon that so many other restaurants across the country have taken up. "The whole tradition of Japanese food is based on what is to hand and what can be found locally," said Caroline Bennett, managing director of U.K. sushi restaurant Moshi Moshi.

To promote awareness for sushi chefs, the organizations hope that people across the country will go to their favorite sushi restaurants this week and ask the chefs about sustainability. I'll be on the prowl for some sustainable salmon and shrimp.


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