Sustainable Sushi – Who’s doing something about it?

Tuna at Tsukiji

Processing Tuna at Tsukiji

Many people and companies are engaging in responsible behavoir, supporting sustainable operations and avoiding giving monetary support to those who choose to act otherwise. Let’s recognize some leaders:

  1. Tataki Restaurant in San Francisco has led by example, becoming the first of a new breed of stores on the US west coast to create a menu consisting of only sustainable ingredients.
  2. Whole Foods has taken steps to be conscious of sustainable seafood efforts, and is leading the grocery industry in the “green” direction
  3. Casson Trenor, a longtime sustainable seafood advocate who has been very publicly leading others down the path, along with organizations like Monteray Bay Aquarium.

One problem with singling out examples to praise is that we leave out others. For example, there are other sushi restaurants which have either gone to sustainable seafood menus like Bamboo Sushi in Portland and Mashiko in Seattle. Still others at least offer sustainable, and/or locally caught meal options to their customers . Even these partial steps are a huge win, because it’s really not economically feasible in some cases for restaurants to completely make a break from their existing menus, alienating loyal customers in the process. If you have one of these enlightened restaurants in your area be sure to say something encouraging to the folks there.

And there are certainly many other individuals and institutions who deserve mention for their public support and work. But there are also so many examples of companies not (yet) interested in moving in the right direction. Certain high profile restaurants like Nobu are often singled out for derision. I feel a bit disappointed each time I shop at Costco and see huge amounts of farmed salmon for sale that’s been imported from fish farms in Chile.

And while it’s true that my local Whole Foods Market will sell me seafood that’s on the “no-no list”, I appreciate that they are taking steps in the right direction, where those steps make sense from the perspective of sustaining their business. Just as your local sushi restaurant needs to retain customers by offering the traditional favorites, I can appreciate those that offer the enlightened menu offerings alongside them.

Note that I’ve left out some companies from recognition for working to alleviate the problems. That’s because in many cases it’s not a matter of enlightened self-interest, but rather an economic necessity. The large tuna companies fall into this category I think. They are doing what they believe will increase their chances of survival – no commendation required.

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