Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Sushi Guide From Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch

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 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.


Quillan Gornt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quillan Gornt said...

Dear Sir,

As the Taipan of Hong Kong's oldest and most distinguished trading conglomerate I should be delighted to disgorge a few bottles with you sometime; you strike me as a man of exquisite taste.

Incidentally, are you aware of any vineyards with private airstrips in the Bordeaux region? I am running dreadfully low on supplies. If we ran out of Grands Crus, the loss of face would be unbearable.

Wishing you the best of joss,

La Gramiere said...

I feel exactly the same way, to the point that I rarely eat fish anymore, though whenever I'm back in the States, I try to have sushi as often as possible. Thanks for posting about the new guide, I can't wait to read through it!

RougeAndBlanc said...

First time posting comment on your blog. I feel the same towards consumption of shark fin soup which I loved until recently when I realized what the fishing fleet does to this helpless speices.

Quillan Gornt said...

Dear Sir,

You should not be so concerned about the Shark's Fin business (in which Rothwell-Gornt Holdings has a not insignificant stake).

It is a pillar of the Hong Kong economy, and keeps thousands in jobs. And the sharks don't feel a thing. In fact, they rather like it.

Best of joss,

Peter Liem said...

Shark's fin is indeed a sad trade, and another one of the many stains on the culture from which I descend. For my part, I would encourage everyone to refrain from eating shark fin soup, and to refuse it when it is served.