DNA Scanner Proves That NYC Sushi Contains Endangered Bluefin Tuna

By Andrew Moseman | November 24, 2009 7:00 am

tunasushi220Sushi lovers, we’ve got some bad news. For a study that came out in PLoS One, researchers ordered sushi at restaurants across New York City and Denver, Colorado, and found that an alarming percentage wasn’t made from the fish it was advertised to be. More than half of the eateries weren’t completely clear and honest about the fish they offered, the study says. Some even mistakenly served up escolar, which can give people diarrhea and stomach problems.

Although their results were shocking, exposing sloppy sushi joints wasn’t their main goal. The scientists were trying to improve on a new species-identification technique, called DNA barcoding…. Their goal is to build a catalog of every fish species on earth so that anyone with a handheld DNA reader could definitively identify fish within minutes [Wired.com].

One reason researchers investigated sushi is that so much of it has been made from endangered species like the bluefin tuna. In the restaurants that lead scientist George Amato checked out, the device showed 25 percent of what was labeled as tuna on sushi menus was bluefin, Amato said. The device also has been used to identify the presence of endangered whales in Asian markets and fraud in the labeling of caviar and red snapper [UPI].

This study comes in the wake of an international ruling that reduces the quota for bluefin catch from 22,000 metric tons annually to 13,500 for 2010. But that isn’t enough for many environmentalists, nor for The New York Times editorial board, which this weekend called for the United States to list bluefin under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The law effectively bars commercial trade in any listed species, and has been helpful in protecting other animals like elephants and whales [The New York Times].

Related Content:
80beats: Scientists Say Ban Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Trade—And Sushi Chefs Shudder
80beats: Documentary on Endangered Bluefin Tuna Reels in Sushi Joints & Celebrities
80beats: Toothy Sea Monsters Need Sanctuary, Too

Image: flickr / avixyz

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • Tiger roll

    This all started in NYC when a teen aged girl brought fish from restaurants and shops to her fathers lab (he invented genetic barcoding) to be tested. Even the best establishments were serving misrepresented fish.

    Didya know the Moonies control over 90% of the Sushi distribution in the U.S.? sounds crazy, but look it up. We are stupid for not seeking to know where our food comes from.

  • Arno Schlick

    Great topic!

    Here you can see, that two big scientific themes converge in one: we simply need the know-how in genetics to save species we endanger.

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  • Mel

    In 2006 the Chicago Tribune said their survey showed the Moon organization supplied 7 of 9 sushi restaurants in the USA. The Moon organization itself says it is now 90%.

    Moon, who fashions himself to be the Messiah and God incarnate, decides the rules. Former followers say he does not feel bound by man’s laws.


    The pastor “appears to have singled out young, single men in the church and given them room and board and told them it was their duty to catch the sharks,” NOAA’s Torres said.

    When some of the poachers asked the preacher if they were doing the right thing, Thompson allegedly responded that the poaching was God’s will.

    Thompson’s Bay Area Family Church is affiliated with the Unification Church, whose members are often referred to as Moonies because of Sun Myung Moon, the church’s outspoken leader.

    The ocean is a spiritual place in the church’s teachings, and Moon has proclaimed himself “King of the Ocean.”

    audio of Moon’s poaching pastor telling his congregation about his leopard shark operation and how he told Moon about it, can be found at this link:


  • Anon

    I am about to blow your freaking minds. The Rev. Moon also owns News World communication, which owns UPI, which is used as a source in this story.


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