Sushi-Ya, Sushi-here, Sushi-there, sushi every where. Over the past three decades, this refined Japanese culinary tradition, often taking years of diligent practice to perfect, has become as commonplace as McDonald’s. On every street corner in most North American cities, at airports and grocery stores, little morsels look up at us from plastic boxes, waiting to be devoured.
Because of Canada’s Food Guide recommendations to include fish at least twice a week in the diet, many reach for a quick sushi option as a hassle-free contribution to eating healthier. In fact, sushi can be a healthy option. For example, brown rice sushi rolls or vegan rolls (wrapped in cucumber instead of rice) have allowed for those requiring lower glycemic index options to enjoy this culinary delicacy more often. Some restaurants also offer lower sodium soy sauce or accommodate dressings on the side or none at all (for example, asking for no mayonnaise on the california roll) to help reduce sodium and fat content of the dishes they serve.
But, as foodies, we are looking not only at the health benefits of the foods we eat, but also evaluating the impact of our choices on our surrounding environment – well, at least we try when we remember. To be honest, I order sushi once a week for my family and we usually opt for the mainstream fare of california rolls, assorted vegetable rolls, and a dynamite roll here or there. We rarely order raw fish, and when we do, it’s mostly wild salmon. Basically, when it comes to sushi, I would consider myself a ‘low’ on the risk-taking scale (i.e. boring), so you would not see me ordering sea urchin, eel, or abalone any time soon. So I have to say, it was a bit of a newsflash when I stumbled across this documentary, called Sushi: The Global Catch on iTunes the other night when I was haphazardly searching for a rom-com to watch.
The problem makes sense and it is this: we suddenly have a colossal demand for sushi as cultural culinary practices go global. As mentioned, the per capita presence of sushi restaurants is unparalleled in North America compared to any other country in the world, so it is natural that this would increase the demand for fish and other seafood worldwide. True to our roots, we have always been poor stewards of the sea and have overfished many species already (Sustainable Sushi). Add bluefin tuna, among others, to the mix (believe it or not, the eel I would not be seen eating is one of the most popular sushi items on the menu, and consequently, a species that is also in critical condition for being overfished). According to the film, it is likely that bluefin tuna and many other fish species are already in a state of extinction with no chance of replenishing stocks.
Like in other aspects of our endangered environment, we have to take a pause and re-evaluate our decisions when it comes to food, as well as educate ourselves about better food choices, recognizing the significant impact this decision makes at the point-of-purchase. As for me, I think I will stick to mostly veggie rolls, and maybe throw in a couple of salmon and california rolls. In this case, I am happy to remain boring.