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Food, Health, and Eco-news
Sushi Guides Endorse Our Seafood Choices
Ocean eco groups issue guides to safe, sustainable seafood for sushi; Vital Choice fish make the grade
by Craig Weatherby

All of our flash-frozen seafood is inherently safe
and decidedly deliciousto serve uncooked as sushi or sashimi.

We share the high standards as top sushi bars, which only serve fish that was flash-frozen within hours of harvest.

Key Points
  • New sushi guides affirm the sustainability and purity of Vital Choice seafood.
  • Farmed Salmon, Bluefin Tuna, and Asian-farmed Yellowtail were red-flagged as sushi choices harmful to people and/or the oceans.
  • The high rankings earned by Vital Choice seafood selections reflect our strict purchasing standards.
As Gourmet magazine wrote earlier last month (August, 2008), “Japanese chefs... never serve fresh salmon raw… it ‘has to be frozen for sushi,' stresses sushi master Shiro Kashiba, of Shiro's Sushi Restaurant in Seattle.”

But the sustainability and purity of seafood served and sold as sushi can vary greatly... some choices hasten the destruction of valued species, while others may pose unnecessary risks.

Last week, the safety and sustainability of our sushi-grade seafood was affirmed in three new consumer guides.

New consumer guides rank sushi choices
Each of the new guides used sustainability and purity criteria to rank popular sushi selections, and ranked them as best, good, or bad choices, based on whether the source farm industry or wild fishery harms the ocean or poses a health risk to people.

The guides were produced by the Blue Ocean Institute (BOI), the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA), which are members of the larger Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions at

(To see and download the guides online, and for information on hard copies, see our sidebar titled “How to get your sushi guide”.)

The Monterey Bay Aquarium pioneered the color-coded pocket guide approach to consumer seafood sustainability education with its Seafood Watch program.

We support the MBA's Seafood Watch financially and distribute its pocket-guide cards via our shipments and at events where we exhibit.

The colors of sushi: Rankings range from green to red
All three guides use a color-code system to signify the status of various seafood species commonly served as sushi:
  • Green = Best Choices
  • Yellow = Good / Acceptable
  • Red = Avoid / Worst Choices
How to get your sushi guide(s)
The new guides are available online now, as downloadable PDF files:
Beginning October 22, paper versions of the sushi guides and related materials will be available online:
  • Blue Ocean Institute at
  • Environmental Defense Fund guides at
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch at
The Blue Ocean Institute's guide actually uses five colors. In addition to red for “avoid”, the BOI guide uses two shades of green plus yellow and orange, to allow for more nuance in their seafood rankings.

The BOI guide also highlights seafood choices that
like all of our Salmon products, and many other Vital Choice selectionsare certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (As you'd expect, the fish and fisheries certified sustainable by the MSC were ranked green by the BOI).

The new sushi consumer guides differ in appearance but present very similar rankings and offer one consistent message: Sushi choices can impact the future of the oceans.

Sheila Bowman of Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program made this key point: “The reality is quite simple. If you care about the future of the oceans, you'll avoid red-listed sushi.”

Sushi guides support Vital Choice seafood
Our seafood fits this description in the Environmental Defense Fund's sushi guide: “Sushi fish should be the highest quality, undamaged by the catch method, and very fresh.”

As top sushi chefs know, the “freshest” fish is that which has been flash-frozen within hours of harvest, which is true of all our offerings.

And Vital Choice customers will be gratified that none of our offerings fall in the red (avoid) zone, while most were awarded green (best choice) status... and the two exceptions more than deserve that status, as we'll explainn.

Sushi-selection challenges: Rankings vary within single species
The new sushi guides may sow confusion when it comes to species with multiple rankings.

In some cases—such as Albacore Tuna and Salmon—the guides give a single species more than one ranking, based on differences in geographical origin or harvest method.

These legitimate distinctions can color various sources of the same species red, green, or yellow for in between.

Unfortunately, restaurant or store owners may not know from which fishery, farm, or country a particular species was harvested.

Accordingly, these guides are most useful in identifying species that are invariably considered “red/avoid”, such as Bluefin Tuna.

As we reported recently, many sushi sellers mislabel their fish by mistake or by design (see “Teenage Detectives Reveal Fish Fraud”).

And there are persistent problems with undisclosed additives and the substitution of cheap farmed Salmon for wild Salmon. (See “Salmon Fraud Persists” and “Faux Freshness and the Color of Fraud: Deceptive Additives in Shellfish and Tuna”.)
  • Farmed Salmon (sake)—environmental damage and high PCB levels
  • Freshwater Eel (unagi)—scarcity and unsustainability
  • Farmed Yellowtail (hamachi) from Japan and Australia—pollution and unsustainability
  • Long-line Yellowfin/Bigeye Tuna (maguro)—bycatch, poor regulation, high mercury levels
  • Long-line Albacore Tuna (shiro maguro)—bycatch, poor regulation, unsustainability, high mercury levels
To learn more about our commitment to integrity in seafood, visit our Sustainability page and Purity page, and read about the Vital Choice Advantage.

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA). Leading ocean conservation groups offer advice on choosing sustainable sushi. September 25, 2008. Accessed online September 26, 2008 at