I love sushi. Spider rolls, seared escolar, ebi, shrimp tempura rolls, etc. I’ve never been a fan of raw tuna or salmon, not because of the taste, or the idea of raw fish, but the texture of raw tuna and salmon leaves me cold. Crustaceans are my jam, which, if I were a shark, would put me in order Orectolobiformes, the carpet shark family. Easy access to crabs, lobster, clams (mollusks are pretty tasty too). However, as I point out in a post back in February (Fry’s Food Stores and the High Cost of Shrimp), you’re not just eating crustaceans when you order your plate of coconut shrimp or tempura roll, you’re laying waste to the marine environment.
“That’s great!“, you’re probably saying right now, “but we’re here to talk tuna!“. You’re absolutely right. So let’s talk tuna.
No. You cannot haz.
“That’s not fair.”
Life’s not fair. Especially for the tuna.
“You’re going to have explain it to me. “
The only reason I groove with American Tuna for home-cooking (for me, sandwiches), is because of the fact that they legitimately be called “sustainable“, using pole-and-troll, a fishing practice measured by multiple conservation groups as OK for their environment, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to Greenpeace to the Marine Stewarship Council (although the MSC is problematic in other ways, earning SharkProject’s 2012 “SharkEnemy” label).
Go back, click the link above, and read about American Tuna’s commitment to sustainability. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, and it’s a blueprint as to how ALL fisheries should be treated/managed. I know it seems like I own stock in American Tuna, but really, it’s just a good company with a good plan, and I wish more companies followed it.
And that’s the rub. You can know what American Tuna is doing because they voluntarily release all this information and commit to these practices. Let’s forget about Starkist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumblebee for a minute. Let’s think about what’s on your plate at the sushi restaurant. Ask yourself: “Where did it come from?”.
If you said the kitchen, stop being a fucking smartass. Do you know how it was sourced? It’s likely caught by a longline or a purse seine net. As a result, a lot of other fish, marine mammals, sea birds, and turtles died to bring you your spicy tuna roll, because longlines and nets kill indiscriminately. There is no way – repeat – NO WAY that you can target a single species by leaving a baited hook in the middle of the ocean for hours at a time. There is no way for a specific type of fish to avoid a net that is scooping up around a fish aggregating device. What’s a fish aggregating device?
It’s pretty simple really. Most things in the ocean are trying to eat other things. And the things in the ocean that are on a low trophic level have basically two survival strategies: 1. Hide or 2. safety in numbers. A fish aggregation device basically simulates both options for fish. It provides some level of shelter, and then starts drawing in more fish to get a school going. Of course, larger predatory fish (tuna, sharks, etc.) detect this and head in to get their meal.
And then a fishing boat comes in with a net and kills them all.
I’m oversimplifying, but only by a little. This has been standard fishing industry practice for decades, and for tuna we’re seeing tuna stocks crashing all over the world ocean as a result, from the Atlantic, to the Pacific, to the Indian Oceans. So much so that the pacific bluefin tuna is being evaluated by NOAA for endangered species status.
But maybe your favorite sushi restaurant is not using bluefin tuna. Maybe they’re using skipjack, yellowfin, albacore, bonito, and maybe those tuna were sourced from a sustainable source. OK. Then ask your favorite sushi chef. I will almost guarantee at best you will get a vague answer on where their tuna came from, and that’s not really the restaurant’s fault. Seafood traceability is huge problem that is only now getting attention from the Federal government (or was getting attention, God only knows that the Trump Administration will do to the funding).
So unless you know, for certain, that your tuna didn’t come from a source that was sustainable, that nothing other than your tuna died for your sushi roll, and if you care even a little about dolphins, manta rays, albatross, etc., why do it? There’s a lot of other stuff on the menu that you can eat (and a lot of stuff you shouldn’t). Download Monterey Bay’s “Seafood Watch” app, and learn’s what’s good and what’s not good (click here to download the app right now).
There’s lots of good vegetarian options where you could skip the fish altogether. Personally, I like asparagus rolls. The ocean may not be able to thank you, but you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’re not helping clear cut the seas, and that’s kind of thanks enough.