Bluefin tuna belly
Source: Wild, Farmed
Mercury Risk: Extreme
Toro. There’s nothing quite like it. The soft delicate taste, the silky ethereal texture, the lingering hedonistic delight that resonates long after the delicate morsel has slipped softly down your throat.
It’s an incredible dish. I love it, you love it, everyone loves it—but we are loving it to death.
Toro is the general term for the belly flesh of a tuna and can be divided into two main types: chu-toro, cut from the less fatty sides of the belly, and o-toro, the belly’s supple and glorious center. The allure of o-toro is matched only by its price: It can easily be the most expensive item on a sushi menu.
While toro can be cut from any large tuna, the quintessential toro experience is associated with the majestic bluefin tuna, known as honmaguro or kuromaguro, the largest and most highly prized member of the tuna family. It is also the most expensive fish in the ocean: A single animal once fetched 174,000 dollars at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market.
Price tags of such magnitude launch a lot of ships. The various bluefin species are caught in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, and tuna fleets from dozens of countries pursue their quarry wherever it is found. The bluefin has been ruthlessly exploited to the point that stocks are on the verge of collapse.
Bluefin tuna populations in the western Pacific are estimated at less than ten percent of their virgin levels. Populations in the Atlantic are also in dire straits. To worsen matters, bluefin is generally longlined (caught on long ropes with thousands of baited hooks in series). As discussed in other chapters, this indiscriminately impacts many other animals. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish, seabirds, and turtles are discarded by bluefin tuna hunters every year.
The high market value of bluefin has given rise to an ominous new industry: the bluefin tuna ranch. These farms are unsustainable by their very nature. Farming bluefin is akin to farming tigers—top-of-the-food-chain carnivores who demand large amounts of protein. For every pound of tuna that comes out of a bluefin farm, twenty or more pounds of fish have gone in. Practicing aquaculture this high on the food chain is environmentally dangerous. Worse, these ranches typically capture wild juveniles and rear them rather than raising the fish from eggs. Until a better way of raising this fish is developed, it’s best not to support this industry.
Bluefin is also a poor choice for those concerned about mercury. Very high levels of the metal have been found in both Atlantic and Pacific bluefin.
The bottom line is that bluefin is more than a delicacy—it is an essential but extremely vulnerable part of our ocean ecosystem. This is a fish that should be should be venerated and protected, not wiped from the face of the deep in a relentless crusade of greed and gluttony.
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Virtual Sushi Menu
Virtual Sushi Menu
What I’m Up To
Great sustainable sushi with @oysterwine @langdoncook @andrearenee last night at Mashiko. Big thanks @sushiwhore 4 days ago
Oysters on the waterfront in seattle with @oysterwine and @andrearenee – good times. Soon… @sushiwhore time! 5 days ago
Greenpeace takes to the air to broadcast the truth about Coscto’s seafood! Airship FTW! 5 days ago
Update: Mackerel (Saba)
It’s about responsibility, jerk
Guest post – Mark Bittman: “One Way to Buy Supermarket Fish – Frozen”
License to krill
The 4-S Rule
A tough week
Red, white, and bluefin
A bad, bad, bad, bad plan
A ray of light
The 2010 Seafood Summit
Reclaiming our legacy
Little “s” meets the Big “O”
The Vanguard – Part 3: Mashiko
The year in review: 2009
The question of certification
The usual suspects
Sustainable sushi in the news, Autumn 2009
Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Week 4: Blood in the water
Blubbering and wailing
Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Week 3: Signs of life
Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Week 2: A painted ship
ICCAT delenda est
Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Week 1: The search
The Art of Sushi – Part 4: Going beyond the limit with Chris Jordan
Skipjack, seiners, and the sea – Intro
No finners… only losers
America half-steps up
Sustainable sushi in the news, Summer 2009
The Vanguard – Part 2: Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar
… to spite their faces
The Vanguard – Part 1: Introduction
Back in action
Thank you & vacation notice
The Curse of the Black Box
One whisker closer to success
Mekong delta blues
The Bad, the ugly, and really really really ugly
Sustainable sushi in the news, Spring 2009
The Art of Sushi – Part 3: Adeleine Daysor and the art inside your head
Times of darkness
Announcement: Blog posts increasing to twice a week
It takes a village
Respect for the sushi experience – Part 1: Eye-to-Eye
Update: Alaska Pollock (Imitation crab / Kanikama)
Contest results: And the winner is…
Contest update — no snakes to be found
The End of the Line
National solutions, International problems
Why Nobu must evolve
The Art of Sushi – Part 2: The Plastic World of Alicia Escott
From tigers to lions
The not-so-Pacific Ocean
Contest is closed!
TV Spot — “10Connects”, Tampa Bay area, 5/7
Update: Freshwater Eel / Unagi (CONTEST)
The Art of Sushi – Part 1: Fish, Life, and Gayle Wheatley
The kitchen is open (finally)
The Art of Sushi – Introduction
Update: Sea bass / Suzuki
Tour update – Apr 25, Vancouver Aquarium
A Zen experience
Tour update – SeaChoice sushi card launch, West Vancouver, Apr 22
Tour update – Seattle Aquarium, Apr 21
Tour update – Inner Chapters, Apr 17
Tour update – Boulder Bookstore, Apr 13
Article in the Tampa Tribune
Tour update: Colorado, Apr 9-13
MSC certification coming for Canadian swordfish… but not just the good kind
A few notes
“View From the Bay” today!
Sustainable Sushi on NPR (redux)
Sardines, the MSC, and the future
Radio Spot: The California Report
A temporary setback in the Arctic Char Revolution
Review on Gourmet101
Introducing guest postings
TV spot: “View from the Bay”, Feb 17th
Sustainable seafood in Japan
The 2009 Sustainable Seafood Summit
Book Signing: Red Hill Books in San Francisco, Feb 16
Sustainable Sushi released!
Update: Amberjack (Hamachi, Kanpachi, and Hiramasa)
Restaurant Reviews: The Rules
Photos: Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, January 13 2009
Restaurant Reviews: Overview
Understanding the rankings: Aquaculture
Seafood Watch and Sustainable Sushi
Understanding the rankings: Wild fisheries
Farmed vs. Wild: Which is better?
What’s this all about?
About the Author
About the Book
What is Sustainability?
Seafood and Health