Why Not Eat Invasive Species?

An important goal of ours is to have our cuisine return to the roots of sushi, meaning simply to use what we have available where we live. When sushi first developed, it was inconceivable that people could get fresh fish from anywhere beyond their backyard. There are great ecological benefits to using sustainably produced fish, but if they are produced far away, some of those benefits are negated by the ecological cost of their transportation to our restaurant. Our challenge is not to import an exotic cuisine from afar but to use seafood that is locally available and to transform it into a regional cuisine that we can all be proud of, like Clam Chowder in New England, or Crab Cakes in the Chesapeake Bay.

There are many environmental problems that challenge the entire globe and others that are specific to our community; a massive international issue is by-catch. While by-catch is not particularly a problem for us on Long Island Sound, there are specific challenges to the local marine ecosystem that we can try to address. We know that there are invasive species (which are often by-catch) that prey upon the local shellfish population that the local fishing industry depends upon. These invasive species are a vast untapped resource for eating. Just because there isn’t an existing market for these species doesn’t mean they aren’t edible or can’t be delicious; therefore, we have focused on creating a part of our menu that will involve the gathering and eating of invasive species now found in local Connecticut waters.

By collecting invasive seafood on shell-fishing beds, we are basically providing a free weeding service. We strive to be like the Musahar, the rat-catching people of India, who serve as an ecologically healthy, pesticide-free way of ridding farms of crop-destroying rodents. We hope that this will do a few things. First of all, it could potentially curb the dominance of invasive species in the ecosystem. Secondly, it would provide the seafood industry a greater supply of native seafood and reduce the stresses on those populations already fished. Finally, we hope that it would encourage greater balance in the inter-regenerative relationship between man and the oceans. If we were to have thirty Miya’s in thirty different places, each one would have a slightly different menu, each reflecting the problems of its local universe.