How to Find the Most Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Fish for Your Dinner Table

Concerned about how sustainable the fish is that you’re eating for dinner? Do you think that the farm raised option is always the best choice for seafood?

There are varieties of fish that have fewer chemicals or are from highly managed wild populations that are more sustainable than others.  To make the selection of fish easier, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (ironically an organization dedicated to protecting the same creatures it’s helping you decide to eat) has developed a website that details dozens of different varieties of fish, mussels, and shrimp and states which is the best environmental choice, which is the best alternative, and which ones to avoid.

You can see the Monterrey Bay Aquarium site here.

Each type of fish described has a summary of information, the status of current populations in the wild, information on how it is farmed – when applicable, and some facts about the fish species.  It’s quite a comprehensive website for finding and selecting the fish option that is most sustainable and non-toxic.

Interestingly enough, the choice between wild and farm raised is not always black and white since many farmed fish have been found to have high levels of PCB and dioxins.  Farmed fish can also have local environmental impacts of which consumers may be unaware.  And in some cases eating fish that are wild and not endangered can be the most environmentally friendly choice and best option to put in your body.

If you eat fish regularly, it might be a good idea to peruse the website and get some ideas.  For example, farmed catfish are the most environmentally friendly and more sustainable option than wild caught, while the same isn’t true for salmon.  And it’s highly recommended to avoid Chilean sea bass at all times as they’re extensively overfished and caught using longlines which harms other marine wildlife.

For other information on fish from Green Options writers, check out Help Stop Mississippi’s Giant Offshore Farmed Fish Plan over on Planetsave or a Recent Study Finds Fish Tainted with Array of Pharmaceutical Drugs.  I’d also highly recommend Got Mercury? The Politics of Contaminated Fish.

Image credit: Christopher Walker at Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License.

  1. Jonathan Aluzas

    Thanks for the info. Just last week, having vowed to increase my intake of fish, I stood in front of the meat counter paralyzed and trying to remember what I’d read about fish. Wanted to get the healthiest and most Earth-friendly. I ended up getting frozen fish sticks. Not good. So, this will definitely help.

  2. Erica at Food & Water Watch

    Food & Water Watch also has a seafood card (in the form of a wallet card and a fridge magnet), which differs from Monterey Bay’s in that our criteria for choosing the fish included healthiness for you (less likely to be contaminated with mercury and other chemicals), healthiness for the environment (less likely to have overfished status, etc), and also healthiness for traditional fishing communities and the US economy. You can check out our card at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/seafood/seafood-guide/national-seafood-guide . There’s a national version as well as localized versions for different regions of the US.

    We also held a recipe contest and compiled a booklet of creative ways to prepare some of these recommended seafood choices. Check out Fish & Tips here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/seafood/fish-tips

  3. Tanya

    Great article – I am trying to get my kids to eat more fish – and also to try more without batter or breadcrumbs. It is working but slowly.

  4. Terri

    I am a commercial fisher in Alaska for wild salmon.
    There are many Wild seafood products with beautiful & colorful packaging in all of our major grocery chains that say MSC seal of approval,product of U.S.A. which is great however look at where the produts are being processed. It will be tucked away in a tiny corner of the packaging.Please be aware where your fish is being processed also.

  5. Martin

    Great post! I just launched a site selling only sustainable seafood – http://ilovebluesea.com – so there’s no guesswork to buy sustainable seafood. We use the recommendations from Seafood Watch as a baseline (no avoid products) and go above and beyond in determining what we will sell. Thanks!

    Martin Reed

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