Mercury-laced sushi from endangered, overfished species: Talk about a raw deal!  Due in large part to eating contaminated seafood, 2.5 percent of American women have mercury blood levels that exceed the EPA's acceptable limit of 5.8 parts per billion.  If a woman is pregnant or of childbearing age, such amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, can harm her children's brain development in the womb.  One in six U.S. babies may be at risk because of prenatal mercury exposure.  Growing children, of course, are also highly vulnerable to mercury's developmental threat, and adults, too, can get mercury poisoning, symptoms of which include forgetfulness and hair loss.

And let's not forget the impending loss of popular eating fish.  A first-ever set of sustainable sushi pocket guides, released this week, are perfect for helping shoppers and diners decide, at a glance, what's eco-O.K. as well as safest to eat.  Such cult sushi classics as Bluefin tuna, no matter where or how it's caught, are overfished to the brink of extinction.  Bigeye and Yellowfin tuna should be avoided if caught by longlines, which sweep the seas, snagging endangered "bycatch" such as green sea turtles.  And all three deep-sea-hunted tuna species are high in mercury.  The notable and delicious exceptions are Bigeye and Yellowfin caught by trolling or poles; these are young fish, smaller and hence lower in mercury; and they're plentiful.  It's the big wide-ranging tuna who are most fertile and in need of protection. Discover this and more in the three new sushi guides and websites, each slightly different, which have been produced in a research partnership between Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, and of course the venerable Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBAYAQ), which has given away 5 million of their printed Seafood Selector cards to date.  That's not including the cards downloaded onto cell phones or PDAs, or printed off their website.

Or text it: Find out if that maguro (tuna), kani (crab), katsuo, surimi, etc., on the menu is a good green choice along a spectrum down to no-never red, by texting "FISH" and the species name to 30644.  Blue Ocean Institute will text you back the answer.  Read more about this bluegreen tech resource here.  

If you live in San Francisco, or next time you visit, get some good taste and inspiration at Tataki, the first sustainable sushi bar in the U.S.  We recently devoured Tataki's Sustainable Sushi Deluxe Sashimi Plate of fresh low-impact Yellowfin, Mackerel, Shrimp, Albacore, Skipjack, Alaska Wild Salmon and its roe, Capelin roe, and Striped Bass.  Kudos to chefs and co-owners Kin Wai Lui and Raymond Ho.  Sustainable is sweet, and we want more.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was moved to

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Healthy and sustainable sushi
Keep overfishing and high mercury levels at bay with this sushi advice.