Friday, October 16, 2009

The Sad Song of the Tuna: Sustainable Seafood, Sustainable Sushi

I adore sushi. It’s a favorite treat for my family, and we live in one of the sushi havens of North America – Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada. However, more and more I find myself reaching into my wallet for my sustainable seafood cheat sheet. On the radio, I hear tales of the demise of the bluefin tuna, and I reach for the menu to look for the vegetarian options. Tofu and yam rolls, anyone?

The tuna is the darling of school sandwiches everywhere. Slapped together with a bit of mayonnaise, it’s the basic, quick and easy mainstay of moms and kids. Who would think that the survival of this fish could be threatened? While the Marine Stewardship Council has said that the North and South Pacific albacore pole and troll fisheries are the only sustainable tuna fisheries in the world, the same cannot be said for the bluefin tuna.

The northern bluefin tuna is actually one of the most expensive fish in the world. It is used and loved as a sushi mainstay, and ninety percent of the trade in this fish goes to Japan. Unfortunately, it’s been loved nearly to extinction. In the Western Atlantic, the Northern Bluefin is critically endangered. In the Eastern Atlantic, things don’t look much better. Like many fish on the endangered list, the Northern Bluefin grows slowly and reaches maturity fairly late, which means that it’s hard for the tuna populations to rebound once they’ve been overfished.

The European Union recently announced that it would back a proposal to support the protection of bluefin tuna under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. If the majority of nations approve the tuna’s protection, this would ban the international trade in bluefin. Consumer awareness in the EU is growing, and in Britain, celebrities Greta Scacchi, Emilia Fox and Terry Gilliam posed naked kissing a fish to raise awareness about the plight of the tuna.

What does this mean for the options for the consumer in the world of sustainable seafood? For those who are determined carnivores, there are alternatives. However, sustainable seafood choices depend very much on where you live. The Marine Conservation Society, the UK’s Good Fish Guide and the Australian Marine Conservation Society all have sustainable seafood cheat sheets. Print them out and take them with you to restaurants and grocery stores alike so that you can make seafood choices that support healthy and sustainable fisheries.

No comments:

Post a Comment