The Sushi Lover’s Dilemma

For years, I didn’t eat sushi, because I was afraid of the texture. I finally got hooked on it a few years ago – delicious! I didn’t know what I was missing. But as I’ve learned more about environmental issues, I faced a dilemma: many of the fish served at sushi restaurants are overfished, harming other ocean life, and causing other detrimental effects on the environment (c’mon, people – don’t you want your grandchildren to be able to eat sushi?). What’s a raw-fish-loving girl to do? Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium came to the rescue! They publish excellent Seafood Watch Guides, suggesting Best Choices and Good Alternatives (and which choices to avoid) for fish in general, and they just came out with a guide for sushi using names you would see on the menu at Japanese restaurants. You can download the Sushi Pocket Guide here.

The Blue Ocean Institute also has general fish and sushi guides, and has a really neat texting feature. You simply text FISH and the name of the fish you are inquiring about (eg FISH TUNA) to 30644 and you’ll get a response to help inform your decisions. Here’s the response I got to the example above:

pole or troll caught (GREEN) very few environmental concerns; purse seine or longline caught (YELLOW) some env concerns, HEALTH ADVISORY: high mercury; bluefin tuna (RED) significant enc problems. HEALTH ADVISORY: high mercury

(Obviously, Green means GO, Yellow is a maybe – though I’d avoid it myself – and Red is an absolute No-GO. This response also highlights the importance of asking how your fish was caught, and where it is from!)

Lest you think eating sustainable sushi means you’ll be missing out, check out the offerings at this fabulous local restaurant in SF, Tataki. On a recent trip there, I had some of the most delicious, fresh sushi I’ve ever had, and it tasted even better eating it with a clear conscience! I realize I am very lucky to have access to a restaurant like this (gotta love the Bay Area). Hopefully the trend of sustainable sushi joints will take off, but if not, you can come prepared with your guide, order smartly, and leave these Become Aware and Thank You Cards at your favorite restaurant, encouraging them to start serving sustainable choices, or thanking them for already doing so!



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5 responses to “The Sushi Lover’s Dilemma

  1. Thanks for the kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed your experience at Tataki.. the whole goal is to prove that sushi can be both sustainable and delicious, so it sounds like we’re doing our job!

    You can always find up-to-date information on sushi sustainability at, the support site for my recently released book “Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time.”

    Hope to see you back soon!


  2. janeterin

    Thanks for the comment, Casson! Tataki is fantastic (I wrote a Yelp review, and voted for it for Best of the BayList, too!) and I can’t wait to go back. I’ve bookmarked your site – it looks great!

  3. jaime

    There is a fantastic exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium that addresses this issue- was very eye-opening. Great blog!

  4. Pingback: Happy Earth Day! « pretty green girl

  5. Pingback: Sushi, Ice Cream & Other Cute Things « pretty green girl

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