I’m not sure that there’s any food that I enjoy more than sushi and sashimi. As quintessential expressions of the Japanese cultural sensibility, these are foods that stimulate both intellectually and viscerally, that engage multiple senses in a manner that few other eating experiences do, and that also keenly align with my personal aesthetic sensibilities. And besides, they are fantastic partners to champagne.
Yet even as my body revels in the experience, my brain knows for a fact that some species of fish aren’t the best thing to eat if you’re concerned about environmental and ecological responsibility. This isn’t restricted to sushi, of course, but concerns the sea in general. I refuse to eat Chilean sea bass, even if you revert to calling it Patagonian toothfish. As much as I love caviar, I’ve stopped eating it entirely, due to the rampant poaching that threatens to drive the Caspian Sea sturgeon extinct. I felt unbelievably guilty consuming large quantities of bluefin tuna in Andalucía (although, you might rightly point out, not quite guilty enough to not do it, which admittedly is a blot on my character). Intellectually, I know I need to say no to o-toro. But it’s a severe test of gastronomic willpower. There are a number of other things I ought to give up as well.
Today the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has released its guide to sushi, which ought to be mandatory reading for everyone (regardless of whether you follow their advice or not). If you’re not familiar with the Seafood Watch, it’s an excellent and highly laudable resource for anyone who cares about ecologically-responsible eating. The Seafood Watch publishes a constantly updated list of fish and seafood, rating a variety of both fished and farmed species on their sustainability. There are also downloadable regional pocket guides for various areas of the United States, and there’s even a mobile phone-friendly version at mobile.seafoodwatch.org. The website contains an assortment of other useful and interesting information, as you would expect from one of the world’s finest aquariums, and it’s been thoroughly updated as of today to include the new sushi guide. At first glance, the list seems punishing. No ankimo? No unagi? No hamachi? But whether you choose to eat these things or not, I think it’s important to be aware of how they are farmed or caught. It’s important to know where your food comes from, and will only become more so as time goes on.