10 Most Sustainable Types of Seafood, According to the Seafood Watch

Finally, deciding between farm-raised or wild-caught is an easy choice.

You may have noticed the word "sustainable" now comes up more often regarding seafood consumption. Between environmental impacts like pollution, global warming, and overfishing, marine populations have rapidly declined over the last few decades. To help bring these issues to light, the researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch work year-round to update their recommendations of the most sustainable fish to consume in order to best protect these delicate and stressed ecosystems.

The detailed list includes hundreds of species, with qualifications such as the body of water they come from, whether they're farmed-raised or wild-caught, and the method by which they're harvested. Then, each species is given an overall score and color classification in order to determine its sustainability level. We've gathered 10 of the Seafood Watch's "Best Choice" ocean-friendly seafood options that are well-managed and caught or farmed responsibly, so you can be more informed the next time you've got a craving for steamed clams or garlicky baked shrimp.

What are the most sustainable types of seafood?

The most sustainable picks range from farmed favorites such as tilapia and arctic char, to wild-caught stars like albacore tuna and rockfish. Keep in mind that Monterey Bay Aquarium's list is updated roughly once a month, so be sure to check back frequently to see if there's been any movement in the rankings.

01 of 10

Farmed Chinook Salmon

Seafood Watch Score: 7.87

A crowd favorite, chinook salmon, farmed in New Zealand using freshwater net pens, are considered a "Best Choice." However, when opting for wild-caught, Seafood Watch recommends purchasing pink salmon (caught in Washington with lift nets) or sockeye salmon (also caught with lift nets during the early summer run). Unfortunately, most of the salmon caught on the U.S. West Coast and in British Columbia, Canada, fall into the "Good Alternative" category, which the Seafood Watch classifies as "buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed."

02 of 10

Farmed Clams

Seafood Watch Score: 7.01

Another top contender on the "Best Choice" list? Clams farmed worldwide using bottom culture methods. According to the Seafood Watch, these mollusks are considered highly sustainable because farming plankton-filtering species, like clams and mussels, causes minimal environmental impact. However, the researchers point out that Pacific geoduck clams cultivated on the seafloor in Washington and British Columbia, Canada, fall into the "Good Alternatives" category, as this variety needs to be enclosed with plastic tubing while they are farmed.

03 of 10

Farmed Whiteleg Shrimp

Seafood Watch Score: 7.01

Whiteleg shrimp farmed in the United States ranks highly on the "Best Choice" list with a score of 7.01. Shrimp farming methods include indoor flowthrough raceways that use linear containment structures where wastewater leaves the facility, undergoes treatment, and recirculates back into the raceway. The Seafood Watch points out that the U.S. shrimp farming industry operates on a small scale; thus, environmental impacts remain minor.

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04 of 10

Farmed Tilapia

Seafood Watch Score: 6.90

Generally, Seafood Watch deems tilapia farmed in Peru (using raceways) and in Ecuador (in ponds) safe options. Other "Good Alternatives" include tilapia from Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, and Taiwan. However, they strongly recommend against any tilapia farmed in China, which may be fed feces from livestock animals.

05 of 10

Farmed Arctic Char

Seafood Watch Score: 6.72

Arctic Char (also known as alpine trout), farmed in the U.S., Canada, and Iceland in raceways, is considered a sustainable purchase. On the downside, cultivating this species requires a large quantity of marine-based ingredients to feed the stock. Additionally, Seafood Watch expresses worry regarding byproducts from the farming process, such as effluent and chemicals, which are considered a moderate concern for the environment.

06 of 10

Farmed Mussels

Seafood Watch Score: 6.68

All mussels farmed worldwide using bottom and off-bottom culture methods rank very highly on the list of "Best Choice" options and are a safe choice for sustainable seafood. Also, research shows that plankton-filtering species, like mussels, farmed in contained locations, have minimal impact on the environment.

07 of 10

Wild-Caught Lionfish

Seafood Watch Score: 4.47

Red lionfish (also known as devil firefish) is an invasive species in U.S. waters that damages sensitive coral reefs and habitats. Seafood Watch considers the fish a "Best Choice" and recommends purchasing lionfish caught with hand implements (like rods) in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean and adjacent areas to help manage these populations in the affected spots. This popular, non-native aquarium fish has devastated U.S. waters and spread rapidly in the last 40 years.

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08 of 10

Wild-Caught Albacore Tuna

Seafood Watch Score: 3.97

Although tuna species like bluefin are on the "Avoid" list, most tuna caught by U.S. fisheries, such as albacore, are considered a "Best Choice." When purchasing tuna, it's important to check if sustainability-friendly methods were implemented in order to catch the fish, such as harpoons, pole-and-line gears, or purse seines that don't use floating objects.

09 of 10

Wild-Caught Pacific Cod

Seafood Watch Score: 3.58

Also known as Alaska cod—as it's fished in the Pacific Ocean waters of the Bering Sea near Alaska—this species falls into the "Best Choice" category for its healthy stock and sustainable fishing methods. Caught using set longlines that reduce bycatch rates and overfishing, harvesting for this type of species has minimal impact on the surrounding habitat and ecosystem. With effective management and regulation, other species that are caught inadvertently are at minimal risk. However, according to the Seafood Watch, Pacific cod caught by Japanese and Russian fisheries should be avoided due to overfishing and bycatch concerns.

10 of 10

Wild-Caught Rockfish

Seafood Watch Score: 3.48

Rockfish, particularly darkblotched rockfish caught off the U.S. West Coast, is considered a "Best Choice" item, though it does not rank as highly as farmed mussels or clams. This is because fisheries run the risk of overfishing or bycatch while using set longlines to retrieve rockfish from the wild. The species is currently recovering from the effects of overfishing and, according to Seafood Watch, management has proven effective for protecting these ocean dwellers. However, researchers encourage consumers to stay mindful of where their rockfish comes from. Other varieties, like British Columbia-caught rockfish, fall under the "Avoid" category.

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