I have an addiction to veggie tempura. It’s shameful. I don’t like to fry things at home because of grease splatter so I’m relegated to hunting down the appetizer at the most sustainable sushi joints I can find. Is there such a thing as sustainable sushi? Probably not, but if you’re a pescetarian you can check menus to make sure your restaurant of choice doesn’t serve endangered fish. Even as a vegetarian I will always avoid restaurants that serve endangered species like Bluefin Tuna (usually called Toro). Shunning sushi establishments altogether would be the most sustainable option for our oceans, but the call of the tempura is strong.
So when a sushi place called SweetFish opened within walking distance of my person I was a bit excited. I went to the online menu. It could have been better, but thumbs up - no Bluefin. My fried veggie fix was about to be satisfied!
Happily situated at my tiny table, cramming veggie tempura in my mouth as fast as my awkward chopstick usage would allow, I almost choked when my dining companion said, “I don’t think I should tell you this, but they have Bluefin on the specials board.” My chopsticks fell out of my hand. Appetite gone. Veggie tempura and endamame dinner ruined. It didn’t matter how good it was. I was pissed and incredibly embarrassed.
Only a few months ago I had written an article about France, Italy and Australian potentially uniting to ban Bluefin trade. Ugg! Environmental blogger caught with pants down at sushi restaurant supporting the death and destruction of all things oceanic! Of course I had missed the specials board - I always order the same freakin’ thing.
It’s important in situations of anger and embarrassment not to jump up and scream at the waitor who does not make the purchasing decisions. Luckily, I didn’t. For a minute I considered standing up, going to the sushi bar, paying, and storming out. I didn’t do that either. Instead, I sat calmly sipping my water, unable to finish the food in front of me, and in my head I slowly wrote an article with lots of factoids.
The World Wildlife Foundation believes the wild breeding population of certain Bluefin will disappear as soon as 2012. Bluefin is caught with purse seines and longlines. Longlines result in a large bycatch. Bycatch is any creature caught unintentionally. They are usually killed before they can be freed. Bycatches often include threatened or endangered species like sea turtles, sharks and seabirds. No international law exists to reduce bycatch, so longline fleets contribute heavily to the long-term decline of many species. If the environmental arguments don’t persuade then think about your own health. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch the Environmental Defense Fund issued a health advisory for Bluefin tuna due to elevated levels of mercury and PCBs.
I don’t know if Sweetfish has Bluefin on the specials menu versus the regular menu to avoid publishing the fact that they serve the critically endangered fish online. I can only assume their intentions were devious, since I have no proof otherwise as SweetFish never returned repeated requests for comment. I did have several questions for them. I await their response.
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