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EARTH MONTH: Choosing Sustainable Sushi

It’s Earth Month, leading up to Earth Day on April 22nd. We try to live a sustainable life, and sushi is our favorite food. So we took note when these tips arrived from Genji Sushi’s corporate chef, Takao Iinuma:

To determine the most sustainable sushi choices, Chef Iinuma advises, it helps to remember four “S” words: small, shellfish, seasonal and silver:

  • Small fish. Small fish are lower on the food chain, so there are usually more of them. They also don’t live as long, so they replenish their own stocks more quickly. Arctic char (iwana), salmon and striped bass (suzuki) are better choices than tuna and yellowtail.
  • Shellfish. Mollusks like clams, oysters and scallops actually filter water and make the environment cleaner. Thus, farming them doesn’t carry the environmental impact that other types of aquaculture (farmed fish) can have.

    California roll with a yellow Asian spice garnish. Photo courtesy Genji Sushi.


  • Seasonal fish. In Japan, seasonal foods are celebrated and enjoyed when they are at their peak. Not only does food that is in season taste better, but it naturally controls the supply because the seafood is not removed from its environment at the wrong time. A good way to eat seasonally is to eat locally, since what is being caught in your area is what is in season where you live. Check out what’s in season at

    Like mackerel? Enjoy lots of it: It’s
    sustainable. Photo courtesy Catalina
    Offshore Products.

  • Silver fish. Many silver-skinned fish are also small fish—anchovies and sardines, for example—so they have two things in their favor. Mackerel (saba), Pacific saury (sanma) and Spanish mackerel (sawara) are examples of larger silver-skinned fish that are plentiful, healthy and delicious.
    And don’t overlook all the wonderful vegetable sushi, masago and tobiko (smelt roe and flying fish roe). (By the way, “sushi” means vinegared rice, not “raw fish.” So foods other than fish can be made into sushi.)

    There are numerous factors that the experts consider when they determine the sustainability of a fish species, such as where the fish lives (and the health of that environment), the supply of wild stocks, how the fish was caught, etc.

    The best bet is to buy your fish from a responsible source, and ask questions at the fish market and the sushi bar.

    And, start by looking for a rating from a reputable foundation such as the Marine Stewardship Council or the Blue Ocean Institute.

    If you haven’t been to a Genji sushi bar, they are located in 158 Whole Foods Market locations in 18 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in the U.K.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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