Since the advent of the California roll in the 1970’s, sushi and raw fish preparations in general have seen a huge growth in popularity here in the United States and around the world. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, sushi consumption in the U.S. increased by 28%. And as the number of restaurants serving raw fish preparations continues to grow, the sushi lexicon, lingo if you will, is being adopted by more and more consumers.
Take the word ahi for example. Ahi, pronounced (Ah-Hee) is a word ancient Hawaiians used for yellowfin and bigeye tuna that means fire. The powerful fish would drag the lines over the side of the canoe so fast that smoke would rise from the gunwales. Today, the word ahi is widely used internationally and has come to be synonymous with high-quality tuna. Like any good thing though, there’s been a lot of piggy-backing on the reputation of Hawaiian tuna and the list of products that brandish the word ahi are many and they’re certainly not all living up to the name. Here’s what makes Hawaiian ahi special and really the only product that deserves the title:
Hawaiian ahi is the freshest
All of the boats in the Hawaii Hawaiian Fresh Seafood fleet are ice boats. That means they go out for short trips and pack each fish they catch in ice. Most imported fish is frozen, often trans-shipped at sea, and frequently treated with carbon monoxide to give the fish an artificial coloring. The Hawaii tuna fleet is not an industrial fleet like many longliners supplying imports, but a collective of fishermen and small businessmen.
Longline caught fish are the highest quality
Ask any grader or fish buyer and they’ll tell you that because of the way Hawaii’s commercial ahi are caught, the fish are of a higher quality than those caught by purse seine nets or even hand-line or sport boats. When fish are caught on a long line they aren’t stressed out like when they’re in a net or being fought on a line. They swim calmly around after being hooked and are slowly pulled to the surface. The lack of stress helps to ensure that the meat doesn’t heat up, spoil, and it maintains a longer shelf life as a result.
Hawaii handling methods are second to none
With FDA and HACCP regulations in place in the Hawaii tuna industry, you can rest assured that Hawaiian products are handled well and subject to inspection at every step of the way. While imported tuna is often cheaper, the quality and consistency is not there. The lack of oversight and regulation of imported tuna can never match the Hawaii standard for excellence.
Hawaiian caught ahi is sustainable
The Hawaii longline fleet is a world leader in sustainability. The observer data collected in the Hawaii fishery supplies the majority of observer the data for the entire Western Pacific region. The Hawaii fishery operates under strict rules for reducing protected species by-catch and all Hawaiian fishermen undergo training by the National Marine Fisheries Service. So next time you see ahi on the menu, or are considering serving it on yours, ask your server/supplier where it comes from. Every fish is different and there is only one true Hawaiian ahi.