3 min read

Say Goodbye To Sushi As You Know It, Renowned Chef Warns

<p><a class="checked-link" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/simonagerphotography/9151064956/sizes/l" style="text-decoration: none;">Simon Ager/Flickr/CC BY 2.0</a></p>

Jiro Ono, of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" fame, recently warned that overfishing is driving the future of sushi to change.

"I can't imagine at all that sushi in the future will be made of the same materials we use today," Ono told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, according to AFP. "I told my young men three years ago sushi materials will totally change in five years. And now, such a trend is becoming a reality little by little."

That reality is reflected in the population of Pacific bluefin tuna, a fish traditionally used in sushi, who now total about 40,000 individuals - a fraction of their historic numbers. There are so few fish, in fact, that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is mulling a ban of bluefin tuna fishing in American waters.

In 1994, journalist John Seabrook argued that the most valuable species on the planet, in monetary terms, was not the rhino nor the leopard but the giant bluefin. Even 20 years ago, Seabrook noted that fishing too many bluefins in the Atlantic, spurred on by the high prices the animals can fetch on the Japanese market, could lead to commercial extinction of these animals.

Jiro Ono (left) with Barack Obama, who visited Ono's restaurant in April. (White House/Pete Souza/Wikimedia)

The uncertainty surrounding sushi's future goes beyond bluefin tuna. Ono's son Yoshikazu, a sushi chef as well, also spoke out against unsustainable harvesting of young shellfish. Fishermen, he said, "catch them all together (before some are ready), pushing the stock to deplete."

To respect the plight of these species, master chefs may have to adapt - but that doesn't mean all sushi should be doomed to extinction, as fans of vegetarian sushi would point out. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium, partnering with the conservation group Oceana, has published several guides to sustainable seafood, including sushi.