Greenpeace goes to battle with Robert DeNiro’s Nobu over endangered bluefin tuna


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It’s war between Greenpeace and an unlikely opponent: Robert DeNiro. Or, rather, the environmental activists are taking issue with Nobu, the upscale sushi restaurant chain the actor co-owns. Nobu, it turns out, sells sushi made from the critically endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Nobu’s menus didn’t specify the species of tuna it serves, only the cut of fish (such as akami, made from the sides of the fish, or toro, made from its fatty belly) -- so last fall, undercover investigators from Greenpeace ordered tuna from the menus of three Nobu restaurants in London and had DNA testing performed on the samples. The tests revealed that at least two of the restaurants were serving the endangered Atlantic bluefin, the Telegraph reported.


Nobu managing partner Ritchie Notar told the Telegraph that the practice of selling the endangered bluefin, although not illegal, was one he’d prefer to discontinue. That said, the chain still bowed to pressure from its chefs, who consider bluefin the world’s tastiest sushi ingredient. (It would seem that many thousands of sushi connoisseurs agree, since the Atlantic bluefin faces extinction due to overfishing.) Nobu offered a ‘compromise,’ albeit one that didn’t sit well with environmentalists: It would continue to serve the endangered fish, but add an asterisked note next to bluefin on its menus notifying customers that the species was critically endangered. Ecorazzi quipped, ‘Would you like a side of guilt with that sushi?’

The Telegraph notes that Nobu co-owner and head chef Nobu Matsuhisa is looking into replacing the wild bluefin his chain currently serves with farmed bluefin raised in Australia or Japan. But intentions aren’t good enough for Greenpeace. ‘Eating bluefin tuna is like eating a tiger or a rhino,’ said the group’s oceans campaign director, John Hocevar. ‘In addition to being an endangered species, bluefin tuna probably has the highest carbon footprint of any so-called food in the world given the air miles the frozen steaks must log on the way to market.’

Last weekend, Greenpeace staged a demonstration at Nobu’s West Hollywood location, armed with fake menus featuring ‘entrees’ like braised polar bear liver and poached California condor eggs. (The demonstrators were asked to leave the restaurant, although a statement from the group notes that ‘they did so peacefully, leaving a fair tip for their server.’)

The West Hollywood demonstration was just one way environmentalists plan to spread the word about environmentally unfriendly seafood-gathering practices. A documentary called ‘The End of the Line,’ released in British theaters Monday to coincide with World Oceans Day, aims to expose the practices that, it asserts, could spell the end of seafood as we know it by 2048.

The documentary, which has been called ‘ ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for fish,’ seems poised to strike a forceful blow against unsustainable fishing practices. But perhaps the people best positioned to make headway with A-list haunt Nobu are its favorite customers -- celebrities. From Ecorazzi:

Now, in conjunction with the new documentary The End of The Line, celebrities are signing a petition to raise the heat on Nobu’s management and hopefully get the bluefin removed permanently. Elle Macpherson, Sienna Miller, Alicia Silverstone, Charlize Theron, Sting and Trudie Styler, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson and Stephen Fry are among the 31 famous folks who have signed a petition vowing not to patronize Nobu London until it stops serving the near-extinct tuna. From their statement:


‘As customers and fans of Nobu we strongly feel that bluefin tuna must be completely removed from your menu due to its perilous position as an extremely endangered animal. Nobu is a restaurant we all love, a world leader in sushi with a fantastic reputation and enormous influence. If Nobu took a definitive stand on this issue it could make a critical difference.’

Atlantic bluefin tuna are among the world’s largest fish, often weighing more than 500 pounds and measuring more than 6 feet in length. (The largest ever recorded weighed in at nearly 1,500 pounds.) They’re incredibly fast swimmers (they can travel at speeds of more than 40 mph) with great endurance; some bluefins tagged for monitoring purposes have been discovered to swim back and forth between North American and European waters several times in the same year.

-- Lindsay Barnett