We’re working on a diplomatic approach to saving Bluefin tuna with our No Mo Toro campaign. So far, our E-mails, letters, and phone calls tend to be dismissed and ignored by most sushi bar managers. Not a big surprise. We can chalk that up to the sushi bars being busy and give them the benefit of the doubt. Despite their unwillingness to respond to our questions, we want this campaign to be effective, and in many cases that will mean working collaboratively with sushi bar management. Therefore, I have been compiling articles, resources, and references about Bluefin Tuna to put together a restaurant guide, which we will be able to give directly to sushi bar managers in face-to-face meetings.
The goal is to educate these important stakeholders who have the ability to make more sustainable choices. Being more conscious of overfishing and endangered species will not only reflect better on their businesses, but also ensure the availability of their product in the future.
Personal note: it kills me to put it that way (“product for the future”), but the point of this campaign is to work towards an urgent and attainable goal: get Bluefin off the menu in Denver forever. By showing the restaurants that we are willing to help them become more sustainable, we give them the option of doing what is best for their business, and we also begin the conversation of seafood sustainability.
Make no mistake about it. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “sustainable seafood,” especially if it is wild-caught or irresponsibly farmed. How could it be considered sustainable to remove a wild animal from its habitat? That word has been abused, co-opted, and devalued in these times of environmental sensitivity, but we need to pick our battles sometimes. If we want sushi chefs, patrons, owners, and suppliers to be more responsible, we may have to start with encouraging “sustainability.” Once they accept that overfishing is a problem with Bluefin, maybe they will realize that the same thing is happening to most species of fish caught for human consumption.
Thus, I give you some links to peruse if you want to know more about Bluefin. These are some of the materials being edited down into a concise and effective restaurant guide that expresses the urgency of Bluefin protection, solutions for restaurants, and how to educate their guests. If you have any suggestions for more or better info, let us know in the comments section.
- Blue Ocean Institute analysis of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna - technical and lengthy, but the summary tells you what you need to know: Overfished. High mercury content too.
- Chef’s Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood - slick and geared toward restaurants, this should be a useful tool.
- Seafood Watch report on Bluefin - also long and technical, but should provide some good snippets of information to hammer the point home. Overall recommendation: Avoid.
- Seafood Watch pocket guide - updated May 2010. We have already begun giving these out to sushi patrons. Sushi bars need to have these on hand, I think.
- Tuna’s End by Paul Greenberg - we’ve already linked to this, but I think it is well written and from a respected source, The New York Times Magazine.
What else do you think might help? What would a sushi bar manager respond to?