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Chicago aquarium cooks up a sushi class

The Shedd Aquarium aims to teach eaters to choose fish that are abundant in the wild, not ones like bluefin and yellowfin tuna that are overfished and face extinction.

May 31, 2009|William Mullen

CHICAGO — After admiring the beauty of fish from all over the world, about 40 guests will retire to a room at the Shedd Aquarium today to learn how to slice 'em up and eat 'em raw.

This is no weird, secret undertaking. Nor is it some kind of punishment for sea critters that don't perform well. It's actually a service that makes the Chicago aquarium quite proud.

As one of the more unusual parts of its 79-year mission to protect the world's ocean life, the Shedd is offering a class in making sushi. A chef from seafood wholesaler Plitt Co. will demonstrate how to prepare the raw Japanese dish, using Alaskan salmon and Dungeness crabmeat.

"It's a part of our Right Bite program that we have been conducting for 10 years," said Kassia Perpich, the Shedd's sustainable-seafood coordinator, who teaches about the damage that popular eating habits do to the world's oceans.

Some of the most common fish used in sushi, including bluefin and yellowfin tuna and freshwater eel, are so dangerously overfished that they face extinction, Perpich said.

The Shedd's program urges people to instead eat fish that remain plentiful in the wild.

Today's menu won't come from the Shedd's exhibits; no salmon or Dungeness crab are on display. But past programs have featured species that live at the aquarium.

"When people see a fish living in the displays, it helps make the connection [between] the fish in the ocean and the fish on their plates," Perpich said. "We hope it inspires them to make sustainable seafood choices."

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wmullen@tribune.com

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