Sushi restaurants need sustainability on menu
January 14 2010 Fish2Fork
Sushi restaurants are the worst for serving up fish that are endangered or over-fished in the wild, according to a survey of 50 restaurants in 14 states.
The first online survey of its kind also found, ironically, that the best restaurant in the United States for sustainability was a sushi restaurant.
The survey was carried out by the online restaurant review guide
which has already caused a number of high-end and Michelin starred restaurants in UK to change their menus.
Its first findings in the US have been released to co-incide with 14 screenings of the film, The End of the Line
based on Charles Clover’s book of the same name, which led to the idea of the online guide.
Clover, who is editor of Fish2fork, showed in his book and the film that while as many as 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully or over-exploited and some fish species, such as the bluefin tuna or the beluga sturgeon, are now listed as critically endangered, many restaurants still think nothing of serving fish from over-exploited stocks.
The initial survey of US restaurants for the interactive fish restaurant guide found that seven out of the worst 10 eateries for sustainability were sushi restaurants.
Bar Masa – junior sister to Masa, one of the most exclusive and expensive restaurants in New York – was judged to be the worst offender.
Another restaurant in the city, 15 East, fared almost as badly. Both restaurants were given 5 Red Fish ratings. Other sushi restaurants featuring in the bottom 10 included: Yellowtail and Sushi Roku in Las Vegas; The Hump and Mori Sushi in Los Angeles as well as Uchi in Austin, Texas.
Ironically the restaurant which topped the survey for sustainability also served sushi – demonstrating that sustainability and sushi were not incompatible.
Bamboo Sushi in Portland is given a 4.5 Blue Fish rating for putting sustainability at the heart of its menu by ensuring all its fish and seafood come from stocks which are not threatened. Another sushi restaurant, Tataki in San Francisco, also scores highly, gaining three Blue Fish.
Three traditional seafood restaurants, including the two Michelin Star Aqua in San Francisco, were also given a 5 Red Fish rating. The other two were McCormick and Schmick’s in Boston and the Atlanta Fish Market.
Three restaurants put in an outstanding performance to record a four Blue Fish score: Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle, Blue Ridge in DC and Sea Rocket Bistro in San Diego.
In all, 22 restaurants of the 50 assessed – 44 percent – picked up a Red Fish rating from 0.5 to 5.
A total of eight restaurants – 16 percent – got three Blue Fish or higher and more than half – 28 (56 per cent) – got a Blue Fish rating of 0.5 to 4.5.
“Fish2Fork’s aim is not to persuade people to stop eating fish,” said Clover. “Quite the contrary – we want everyone to continue enjoying seafood, but the cavalier attitude to our oceans and the seafood they contain has to change if the appalling prospect of a world without many existing species of fish is to be avoided. By making the right choices about the fish they eat, diners have a powerful economic weapon they can use in bringing about that all-important change.”
Fish2fork.com has been set up specifically to help diners make informed decisions before they visit a seafood restaurant and recognize those which strive to provide the most sustainable fish to eat and which serve mostly fish to avoid.
”Some restaurants still have not grasped that sustainability has become part of the definition of good food. You don’t want to eat a wonderful meal and have nightmares about the species you have pushed a little further towards extinction,” said Clover.
“This new guide shows the wonderful work some chefs and proprietors are doing with fishermen to make sure that they source fish of the highest quality caught in the most selective ways. It also shows the awful dark side of gastronomy: where some chefs will charge their customers the Earth for an ephemeral taste which they value above the survival of whole species and ecosystems.”
All the restaurants are judged primarily on the information they provide about their seafood online. The restaurants which displayed their sustainability credentials and gave the most information about their seafood scored highest, provided they were not serving fish from overfished stocks. Those that provided the least information and served fish from overfished stocks scored poorly.
The website used the
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List
and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch’s list of species to avoid to benchmark the menus of more than 150 restaurants, a third of which have been rated so far. Each restaurant was contacted and asked to complete a questionnaire so that a rating could be given.
The questions were designed to assess a restaurant’s sourcing policy, for instance, whether it offered wild or farmed fish, whether it adhered to Seafood Watch or whether it offered species of fish which were either endangered or under threat because of over-fishing. Where a restaurant declined or was unable to complete the questionnaire it was filled in by fish2fork.com staff using its online menu and website as a source of information.
Visitors to the site will find information about seafood restaurants across the US and will be encouraged to ask questions about the fish they are offered when they dine out. They can then easily upload their own view of the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and the quality of the food it serves onto the website and help give it a simple rating score – blue fish for good and red fish for bad.
Casson Trenor, senior markets campaigner with Greenpeace, welcomed the launch of the seafood website:
“It’s heartening to see more and more concerned individuals taking action to promote sustainable seafood awareness around the globe. Services like those provided by fish2fork.com are important pieces in the global struggle to transition to an environmentally sound seafood industry,” he said.
« Return to the news index
Be the first to comment on this story using the form below