At over half of the sushi bars we visited, the chef proudly pushed his bluefin tuna (often listed as toro). But no matter how temptingly melt-on-your-tongue toro is, it’s your environmental duty to resist. Organizations such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with its Seafood Watch program, have long posted a bluefin red alert. The huge fish still fetches big money, but all three species of bluefin— Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern— have been devastatingly depleted, and Pacific tuna is almost completely wiped out. (So why do sushi chefs keep pushing it? Refer back to that melt-in-your-mouth scenario.)
This doesn’t mean that you have to go without your tuna fix. Order albacore, skipjack, big eye, or yellowfin instead. Also look for more sustainable (and pricier) bluefin raised from eggs hatched in a Japanese lab. Akiko's, for instance, sources “sustainable kuromaguro” hatched in Nagasaki, and Kindai tuna is bred using full-cycle aquaculture at Osaka’s Kinki University. Next up in the endangered category? Unagi. Listed in the Seafood Watch “avoid” column, the freshwater eel is also on its way out. Choose sea eel (anago) instead.
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of San Francisco