How can a sushi bar eliminate some of its most popular fish from the menu and still be profitable? One local establishment accomplished this, claiming that sustainable seafood is more important than profits in the long term.

Hajime Sato, owner of Mashiko Japanese restaurant in West Seattle, will speak about his experience converting his sushi bar into the first (and likely still the only) fully sustainable sushi restaurant in the city as part of a UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs lecture, 12:30-2 p.m. Friday, May 29 in the Fisheries Science Building (Room 108).

Sato, who recently recounted to Seattle magazine the past five years of challenges and successes of going all sustainable, will talk about considerations a restaurant should take when taking a sustainability stand, how consumer preferences affect the type of fish a chef serves and trends he sees in Seattle with sustainable seafood in restaurants.

According to the Seattle magazine story, Sato’s sales and businesses plummeted after he transitioned his restaurant in 2009. His menu had to change to meet certain sustainability criteria, including being able to trace fish, refusing to serve endangered species and ensuring fish were caught without a lot of environmental damage.

This eliminated many sushi bestsellers such as eel, bluefin tuna and yellowtail. But it also exposed guests to different local varieties like sardines and brought in other species like catfish and albacore. Now, the restaurant is busy again and the sustainability pledge is a major reason why, Sato says.

The guest talk Friday at UW is part of professor Edward Allison‘s course “Fish in the Global Food System” and is free and open to the public. Organizers ask that people RSVP online.

This piece was originally posted in UW Today.

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