Swimming Against the Tide

March 10, 2013

Next time you tuck into tasty tuna sushi or sashimi, spare a minute to think where it has come from.

The Bluefin Tuna, a mighty fish indigenous to the Atlantic Ocean, has seen an 80% decline in population since the 1970s and sushi has paid a big part in this. The Bluefin can live for 30 years but very few specimens now grow to a mature age and lots of young fish are being caught and fattened up before they have a chance to breed.

The Japanese love Bluefin Tuna; they import 90% of the European stocks; now farm the species in the Pacific Ocean and a single giant tuna once sold for $100,000 on Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. The fish is a delicacy in Japan and provides most of the tuna used in Sushi due to its tender, dark red flesh that looks similar to raw beef.

Tuna is one of the principle fishes in Japanese cooking. It is used for a range of sushi dishes, cooked and raw – from the wide variety of maki rolls to delicately sliced strips of soft tuna for nigiri and sashimi.

The good news is that there's no need to give up eating tuna completely, there are other species of the fish that are under less threat from over-fishing and are not critically endangered.

And, there are plenty of other delicious options if you are concerned about the welfare of this majestic fish. The great thing about sushi is the vast choice of fillings - fish, meat or vegetables – which means you can avoid eating the more unusual or endangered delicacies from Japanese cuisine.

More good news for the Bluefin is that the European Commission is backing a campaign to save it by listing it as an endangered species which will ban all international trade in the fish while more research is carried out on its decline, a move that has been welcomed by environmental campaigners.

In the meantime, read the labels or ask your fishmonger where your fish is coming from. It may just mean you can carry on eating your favourite seafood sushi for many more years to come.

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