The Secret to Selecting Sustainable Seafood

A better title might be “Sustainable Seafood – There’s an App For That?

Sustainable seafood is a hot issue as public awareness increases about topics like overfishing and environmentally-destructive fishing practices.

Salmon sustainable seafood

What is sustainable seafood?

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Seafood is sustainable when the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations. If you buy fish managed under a U.S. fishery management plan, you can be assured it meets 10 national standards that ensure fish stocks are maintained, overfishing is eliminated, and the long-term socioeconomic benefits to the nation are achieved.

So if seafood comes from fished or farmed sources that don’t jeopardize the ecosystems and can maintain (or even increase) production in the future then it is sustainable.

Why is it important to select sustainable seafood?

Sustainable seafood does not inflict damage on the environment, impede the fish’s population growth or destroy the fish’s natural habitat.  According to an article published in Nature* we have depleted nearly 90% of our ocean’s large predatory fish within the past 15 years.  To recover it is imperative that overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing, habitat damage, bycatch and poor management come to a halt.  Therefore, if we choose to consume seafood, we must insist that fisheries follow sustainable practices.  For the average consumer the most effective way of encouraging sustainable fishing is to vote with your dollar and purchase only sustainable seafood.

How do I know if the seafood I buy is sustainable?

That’s where the Monterey Bay Aquarium comes in.   They have a Seafood Watch Pocket Guide and a free iPhone app (yes, there IS an app for everything) to help you select the best seafood for your region.  The guide and app have three recommendation categories – Best Choices, Good Alternatives and Avoid.  Seafood on the Best Choices list is abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.  Seafood on the Avoid list is overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.  The guide and app also includes information about which seafood you should limit your consumption of due to concerns about mercury and other contaminants.

Seafood Watch app sustainable seafoodI test drove the Seafood Watch iPhone app today at the Palos Verdes Farmers’ Market.  After checking out the fish selection from Dry Dock Fish, one of my favorite farmers’ market vendors in the Los Angeles/Orange County area, I decided that the salmon labeled “Wild King – Sushi Fresh” looked terrific.

I pulled up Seafood Watch on my iPhone.  First it checks your location to determine which region you are shopping in, then you have the option of selecting the “Seafood Guide” or the “Sushi Guide”.  After selecting the Seafood Guide, the app presented me with an A-Z list of seafood.

Each item is rated Best Choice, Good Alternative or Avoid.  If you click on an item the app displays a page with more information including the rating, whether it is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), various market names, consumer notes and a summary.  You can also sort the list by Rating.

I found three types of Salmon listed – Alaska Wild-caught (Best Choice), Farmed (Avoid) and Washington Wild-caught (Good Alternative).  Then I asked Lisa, from Dry Dock Fish, where her wild King Salmon was caught.  She said Alaska.

Woo hoo!  Sustainable seafood dinner.  Check.

Salmon sustainable seafood

*Myers, Ransom A. and Boris Worm. “Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities”. Nature 423 (2003): 280-283.


  1. Camile Cozier says:

    Helpful information for fish eaters like me.

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