At Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, chef Bun Lai is serving up an innovative and novel sushi menu from invasive species such as European Snails, Asian Shore Crabs, and weeds.
An invasive species is one that is not native to the ecosystem in question. They commonly exhibit high rates of reproduction, and can pose significant threat to the habitat and to native species. Miya’s Sushi joins a growing contingent of restaurants serving up invasive species, often explicitly as a means of curbing their impact.
Research by the Royal Society has shown that since 1500, invasive species have been the second most common threat to species that have gone extinct. They can spread in a variety of ways, but most of the time humans are involved – either through deliberately introducing them to a new ecosystem, or by providing the means of transport upon which to inadvertently hitch a ride.
Because invasive species are often exhibit extraordinarily high rates of reproduction, controlling their numbers can be a real challenge. An Oregon-based experiment to use a 75-strong team of goats to curb invasive species of vegetation ended in failure after the kids wrought havoc on the local ecosystem, indiscriminately munching on native and non-native species alike.
Bun Lai thinks that restaurants that serve invasive species can be part of the solution, by simultaneously curbing the numbers of harmful species and avoiding the environmental impacts associated with conventionally sourced ingredients. No antibiotics, pesticides or herbicides were used in the making of Miya’s sushi. Two birds killed with one stone.
However, critics argue that fine dining is not a solution and can in fact be more of a hindrance than a help. Invasive populations are unlikely to be affected by restaurants like Miya’s Sushi because they breed at such a high rate. Moreover, whilst Miya’s Sushi could help to normalise taboo foods such as insects, which are amazing alternative sources of protein, they could also create a market for invasive species and thus contribute to their spread.