For some, it's health food wrapped in its own edible package. For others, it's a fun way to socialize with friends. Still other folks see it as an excuse to eat more wasabi. Whatever the reasons, there's no doubt about it – these days just about everyone loves sushi.
That's of course, unless you happen to be a shrimp, eel, or octopus, or any of the other sea critters commonly used to make sushi. Experts say such creatures are disappearing from our oceans, in large part because of overfishing – the tradition of catching fish faster than they can reproduce. For a few years now, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm that unless our harvesting habits change, our global commercial fishing industries could collapse before 2050. That would mean a critical blow to a major world food source and a devastating loss of marine life, not to mention thousands of people out of work and potentially irreversible damage to our ecosystem.
Luckily, there's good news: Thanks to new management programs called catch shares, many types of fish are now being harvested more sensibly so their numbers are more plentiful. Health and conservation groups are also trying to eliminate the use of harmful antibiotics and pesticides. And as a careful consumer (and conscientious sushi lover), here are five things you can do to make sure your seafood comes from healthy, sustainable sources:
1. Eat more of these. The following fish are among those rated as plentiful and safely harvested:
- Salmon and salmon roe (Alaska wild)
- Tilapia (U.S. farmed)
- Imitation crab (Alaska polluck)
- Albacore tuna
2. Don't eat these, at least for now. These fish need more protection and better harvesting methods: Monkfish
- Imported shrimp
- Bluefin tuna
- Freshwater eel
3. Talk fish. Ask your grocery's seafood manager or local sushi bar chef where their fish comes from and whether it's caught or wild. Let them know you care about having fresh, sustainable options.
4. Look for the label. The blue label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) tells you a fish comes from sustainable sources.
5. Learn more. The fish listed above are among those rated in The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch: A Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Sushi, which is updated twice a year. You can download a complete copy of Seafood Watch at montereybayaquarium.org or connect with it on Facebook, Twitter, or through their iPhone app. Here are links to other resources:
- Environmental Defense Fund (click on "Oceans")
- Marine Stewardship Council
- World Wildlife Fund – Sustainable Seafood: Consumer's Guides
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