Image: Center for Biological Diversity
Leading chefs (and sustainable foodies) Alice Waters and Dan Barber have joined the movement to save the endangered bluefin tuna and signed a pledge not to serve the fish in their restaurants, Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Blue Hill in New York. The Center for Biological Diversity launched a boycott against bluefin last November, it said, "after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas refused to act to protect the species. The western Atlantic tuna stock has dropped by more than 80 percent since 1970; the eastern Atlantic stock dropped by 74 percent between 1957 and 2007."
Dan Barber recognizes his choice to stop serving bluefin as a matter of responsibility rather than just a good deed, given the influence he (and other prestigious chefs) have on people's food choices. He said, "As chefs and people who love to eat are shaping food fashions like never before, we ought to be getting it right. And a picture like this says we are most definitely not getting it right. If we have the power to popularize tuna to the point of extinction - which we've done, with dizzying speed and effect - we also have the power to get people to rethink what they eat, and that should include bluefin tuna."
Meanwhile, as people do continue to eat bluefin and other overfished species, they are also likely counteracting any health benefits that fish bring because of the high mercury content.
A San Francisco-based group recently tested random samples of seafood from local grocery stores and sushi restaurants and found mercury levels up to three times the level that allows seafood to be pulled from shelves.
Methylmercury - the type that becomes concentrated in fish tissue - averaged 1.47 parts per million for swordfish in the GotMercury.org study, compared with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's average mercury level of just under 1 part per million. In fresh tuna, the report found an average 0.407 parts per million versus the FDA's average 0.325 parts per million.
The highest mercury level for tuna was 2.29 parts per million in a sample from Los Angeles. The city also had the highest reading for a swordfish sample, at 3.09 parts per million. Two stores in Marin County sold swordfish with the highest recorded mercury levels in the Bay Area, the study said. Tuna samples with the highest mercury counts in the region came from two restaurants in Santa Clara and San Jose.
More on bluefin tuna
Boycott Bluefin Tuna & Let the Critically Endangered Fish Off the Hook
Japan Will Ignore Ban on Bluefin Tuna, Says The Fish Isn't That Endangered
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Will Be Gone By 2012 At Current Fishing Rates
Iron Chef America Says No More to Bluefin Tuna