Vegan Sushi and the Problem of Overfishing

July 29, 2014

When someone talks about sushi, they’re probably not thinking about vegan options. I’ve certainly had my share of sad cucumber rolls while my dining companions pig out on crazy-looking meat-based creations with legs and eggs and all manner of things stuffed inside them. Thankfully, many sushi restaurants now offer more creative vegan options that include an array of vegetables and tofu. But while I share a happy table with my omnivorous friends and loved ones, the truth about sushi is not so sunny: overfishing is a real issue which is causing real-world problems. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t rely on animal-based sushi to get your roll on.

1. Overfishing will cause the extinction of many species of fish (and some of them are now endangered).

Foremost among these endangered fish are the bluefin tuna, which have been harvested to near extinction. And as fish populations shrink, fishers go deeper into the world’s oceans to harvest previously un-harvested fish (this is called “fishing down”). The practice of overfishing actually affects the food chain and the earth’s ecosystem because when larger, carnivorous fish become endangered or extinct, the population of smaller fish and ocean life swells and throws entire ecosystems out of balance.

2. Fish farming is akin to factory farming.

While some tout fish farming as an acceptable practice to alleviate overfishing, fish farms are a strain on the environment (think carbon footprint and use of resources). You think factory farming is bad, right? Fish farming is the same idea–fish in farms are at risk for illness and contamination and are slaughtered inhumanely. Of course, vegans already recognize the sentience of animals, but scientific research even shows that fish do feel pain.

3. While most people believe that fish is a healthy meat, it’s actually one of the most easily tainted by pollution.

Just like air pollution, water pollution is very real and very hazardous. Fish that live in polluted water become contaminated and eating those fish is bad for one’s health. The EPA cautions against eating certain types of fish from certain areas because they may be contaminated with mercury, for example.

4. You can get the nutrients in fish in other places, too.

Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acid which are good for your heart and your brain. But vegans can get these precious vitamins from supplements as well as from flax seed, leafy greens such as spinach, walnuts, and an array of other foods.

5. There are so many more vegan sushi options than you thought possible!

So maybe I came off a little down on vegan sushi at the beginning of this post, but in reality, it’s one of my favorite foods. I get so excited when I see a new vegan sushi option at a restaurant because most places only offer a few things like a veggie roll with carrots, cucumber and avocado or tofu inari. And those are great, but I really want some more variety. For example, you can bake watermelon or tomato so it gets a consistency similar to raw fish and you can’t even tell the difference! But while you chow down on it you’ll know you’re not contributing to overfishing so your meal can settle in a happy stomach.

Vegan Sushi made from Tomato

Tomato Sushi, founded by master chef James Corwell, uses tomatoes cooked using sous vide method to emulate the texture and look of raw tuna.

Vegan Sushi and the Problem of Overfishing


For more information on overfishing, check out the World Wildlife Federation’s site:

How do you feel about vegan “tuna” sushi–or any other options? 

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Related: How to Make Vegan Sushi


Photo: Tomato Sushi

Samantha is a vegan professional in the tech industry living in Austin, Texas with her boyfriend. Her background is in library & information science and classical studies. She loves cooking, biking, movies, reading, the science fiction & horror genres, crafting, thrifting, and the occasional video game. Check her out on Pinterest and Google+. You can also reach her at lestersn [at] gmail [dot] com.


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