My guilty pleasure is all-you-can-eat sushi. Few things are as glorious as being seated at a table with my partner, placing our order, and making the kitchen staff doubt whether or not we can really plow through enough fish to feed a small army. (We can.)
I didn’t consider the impact my rampant gluttony had on the planet until very recently, when I learned about Seafood Watch. Developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses make responsible choices for a healthier ocean.
What Is Sustainable Seafood?
Sustainable seafood is caught or farmed using methods that preserve the well-being of oceans and harvested species. Certain fish species are overfished, which means that they are caught faster than they reproduce. Overfishing makes it impossible to maintain healthy population levels. Other fish are caught in ways that can potentially harm threatened species.
A clear example is my fish taco staple, mahi-mahi (also known as dolphinfish). According to Seafood Watch, you should avoid mahi-mahi if it’s sourced from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Taiwan, the North and South Atlantic, and the East, North, and South Pacific regions. In these areas, the fish is caught with longlines. While mahi-mahi populations are considered healthy, the longline fishing method can catch overfished yellowfin tuna, sea turtles, sharks, and seabirds.
I learned this just by tapping around the Seafood Watch app, which is available for free on Android and iOS. It also features a handy map feature that displays local businesses that sell sustainable seafood, as well as a glossary of terms like “longline” and “overfishing.”
Getting informed is the first step toward becoming a responsible consumer, and the Seafood Watch program makes it easy. I spoke with Peter Adame, the Engagement Coordinator at Seafood Watch, about the app, the program, and what makes Seafood Watch special.
Let’s Talk About Sustainable Seafood
Green Future: How often is the Seafood App updated?
Peter Adame: The app is updated quite frequently; I'd say at least once a week with new or updated business partners, conservation partners, and collaborators. Our seafood recommendations are updated at least once a month. You can better understand the difference between our types of partners here.
GF: Are the scientists who make recommendations for the app based at the Monterey Bay Aquarium? Who is on the team, and what does that workflow look like?
PA: Yes, our entire team falls under Monterey Bay Aquarium employment as we are a conservation program of the aquarium. … Our team is split up between outreach and science. So, our outreach team (which I fall under) is made up of staff that work with our partners (restaurants, suppliers, food service organizations, grocery stores, museums, zoos, other aquariums, etc.), and then our science team is who works on the assessments.
Our science team is also split pretty equally between scientists who work on aquaculture and half who work on fisheries. A lot of our assessments cover other parts of the world (as the US imports about 90% of its seafood), so we have contractors in other countries that will help, too. All of our assessments are peer reviewed, and you can learn more about our standards and criteria here.
GF: What has the response been to the app?
PA: The app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times. While our pocket guides are iconic, the app is a lot more useful as it contains all of our recommendations, not just the ones we can squeeze on a piece of paper. Plus, you can filter your searches by domestic/imported and farmed/wild.
Making Ethical Choices With A Green App
If you’re a sushi lover like me (or if you just love fish tacos), you have a duty to make responsible, sustainable seafood choices. That responsibility isn’t limited to shopping at Whole Foods and only buying wild-caught salmon.
Next time I sit down to stuff my gullet at my favorite sushi bar, I’ll have two things in hand: my chopsticks and my Seafood Watch app.