Casson Trenor – Sustainable Sushi Superhero, part 1

Casson TrenorCasson Trenor is the author of Sustainable Seafood, A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time which has become the bible for conscientious sushi lovers. Read this interview, then immediately buy his book — we promise you’ll learn a lot!

Casson is also the Senior Markets Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, and has been actively involved with Greenpeace for years. He is an internationally recognized sustainability expert who also runs the website. He was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2009, and in 2010, Trenor received the “Ocean Protection Hero” award from the “Save Our Shores” environmental organization.

tataki sushiCasson is also co-owner of the Tataki ( restaurant chain of sustainable sushi bars on the West Coast. The original Tataki Sushi was the first sustainable sushi bar in the US, and has inspired many other operators.

And there is so much more, but trotting out his lengthy list of accolades would just take up too much space. So let’s skip the rest and just get right to the interview!

SushiPRO: Why should sushi lovers care about sustainability?

Casson Trenor: In the long run, we don’t really have a choice. Incorporating sustainability into the modern sushi industry is our only option if we want to enjoy sushi in the future. The current state of the industry is quite perilous as most of the items that the sushi diners enjoy are environmentally hazardous in the extreme.

Bluefin tuna is tragically overfished, hamachi and unagi are sourced from depleted populations and fattened in dirty ranching operations, shrimp is often taken through destructive bottom trawls or from farms with massive environmental footprints… this kind of system is simply not feasible in the long run. If we truly love sushi, we need to change our ways and do what we can to save it — otherwise we will likely lose it entirely.

SushiPRO: Tell our readers, what one specific behavior should sushi lovers STOP doing that would have the most positive impact on our oceans?

Casson Trenor: Stop supporting chefs that sell bluefin tuna — and tell them why. Sushi is supposed to be about honoring the ocean and showcasing the grace and beauty within even the humblest of creatures, not blindly ransacking the planet for its dearest treasures.

SushiPRO: In your book Sustainable Sushi, you said, “When all is said and done, it’s up to all of us to take responsibility for our actions.” What are some of the things that the average sushi enthusiast can do to be a part of the seafood sustainability movement?

Casson Trenor: A lot of this is just about talking with one’s friends and family and explaining why sustainability is important. It’s a complicated concept and needs to be teased out, sometimes conversations with people that you trust and respect can make a huge difference in how we see food systems.

Also, never underestimate the power that a single diner has through his or her buying power. Trust me — I’m a restaurant owner. We listen to our customers, we do our utmost to give them what they want. Tell your chef you want sustainable seafood — you’ll get it.

SushiPRO: Your book “Sustainable Sushi”, was published in 2008. What has changed in the world of sustainable seafood since then?

Casson Trenor: Quite a bit. Some stocks have recovered, some others are in more trouble than they were. That said, the most pronounced changed is in general attitude. So many more people are aware of the sustainable seafood movement than back in ’08 — it’s very encouraging. If you just look at the sushi industry, it’s particularly striking. When Tataki opened in Feb 2008, it was the first sustainable sushi restaurant in North America (maybe the world — we’re not sure.) Now there are 10 sustainable sushi restaurants just here in the United States. It’s wonderful to see this kind of momentum.

SushiPRO: Do you have any advice for those who would like to start sustainable, ocean-friendly sushi bars in other major markets?

Casson Trenor: Reach out to us, to the sustainable sushi community at large. We really try to support one another and to trade tips and lessons learned. After all, we all want the same thing — to preserve the art of sushi and to continue to be able to enjoy it in the future. If there’s anything that we can do to help another sustainable sushi restaurant, it’s a win for everyone.

SushiPRO: Any comment on that $736k purchase of that bluefin tuna earlier this month in an auction at Tsujiki?

Casson Trenor: Price tags like that will launch a lot of ships. Clearly, the market cannot save the bluefin. We need consumer action and legal protection, and we need it now.

  click here to read part 2

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