If you're in the mood for a tuna poke bowl or an old-school tuna niçoise salad, here's a tip: Don't hit up the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. It has been nearly six years since chef Jonathon Sawyer became a "tuna evangelist" after attending a meeting of like-minded chefs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was there that he made the decision to forgo tuna — both in his personal life and on the menus at all four of his restaurants.
It wasn't always easy. Turning down the chance to eat famed chef Eric Ripert's mouthwatering thin-sliced tuna over a foie gras torchon took some Superman-like strength, but for Sawyer, the mission is an important one. He's not trying to get people to give up tuna altogether. Rather, he's trying to raise awareness of the sheer quantities that are coming across our collective plates and serve as a gentle warning that all that fish is coming from a limited resource.
It turns out that his effort is hitting a seafood sustainability bull's-eye.
A new study, published in Fisheries Research, reveals that the sheer amount of tuna being taken from our seas, including some species considered "vulnerable," has increased by an astonishing 1,000% in the last 60 years — a rate that some scientists are saying is unsustainable.
The study, which looked only at larger industrial catches, says we're pulling nearly 6 million metric tons of tuna from the oceans each year. (The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization's data — which include artisanal fisheries as well as industrial catches — estimate that the overall annual harvest is closer to 7.4 million metric tons of tuna.)