How to Shop for Sustainable Fish
Seafood is healthy, but not all picks are sustainable. Follow these tips for bringing home fish that you—and the oceans—can feel good about.
When you shop for seafood, you want to make smart choices, both for your family and for the environment. For fish to be considered sustainable, it must be caught or farmed in a way that doesn't harm the environment and in which fish can thrive in the future. These eco-friendly tips will help you navigate the potentially murky waters.
When You're Shopping the Freezer Aisle
Lots of variety; low prices; less chance of waste, since the fish won't go bad in your fridge (not sustainable!); and the ability to learn about the product's origins on the label
How to Choose the Good Stuff
- Look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), or Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) logo on the packaging (see "Sustainability Shortcut," below). These organizations vet fisheries, and their stamps of approval indicate that the seafood came from a sustainable source.
- If you can't find a logo, default to domestic seafood. American fisheries and aquaculture have made good strides toward sustainability.
- Store brands are often a smart bet. Chains like Safeway, Whole Foods, and Stop & Shop have effective sustainability programs.
Buy Frozen Shrimp
Most "fresh" shrimp is actually thawed from frozen, giving it a much shorter fridge life. Look for U.S. wild shrimp or any bag with one of the sustainability logos.
When You're Shopping at the Fish Counter
The opportunity to talk with an expert and buy the fish that's the freshest and most abundant that day
How to Choose the Good Stuff
- The beauty of shopping at the fish counter—at a supermarket, seafood shop, or farmers market—is that there's usually a person there to answer questions about the fish. Start with a simple "Do you sell sustainable seafood?" Then ask, "What do you recommend?"
- Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app, which groups species into the categories "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and "Avoid," and look up the fish you see at the counter. (This app also comes in handy at restaurants.) Some grocery store chains, including Whole Foods, work with Seafood Watch, so the fish for sale will already be labeled.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App
For a Virtually Guaranteed Sustainable Pick
Take home farmed mussels, clams, oysters, or scallops, which help balance the nutrients in our waterways. Translation: Just by existing, they make the ocean healthier. They're also quick to cook and delicious over pasta.
When You're Shopping for Canned Goods
Great prices, wide availability, shelf stability, and (often) clearly labeled cans
How to Choose Tuna
- Scout out how the tuna was harvested. Check the label for the terms "pole caught," "troll caught," or "pole-and-line caught." These methods result in less bycatch—the unintentional capture of other fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds—than longline and purse-seine fishing.
- Sustainable tuna brands include Fishing Vessel St. Jude, Mind Fish Co., Ocean Naturals, Safe Catch, Wild Planet, and American Tuna.
More Delish Fish
Don't overlook the other tinned seafood, especially anchovies. Because these little swimmers are lower on the food chain, they're thought to be more abundant. And, from a culinary perspective, they're invaluable—even just a fillet or two can add big flavor to a dish. Smoked oysters and trout can be another smart and tasty choice. Again, check for an MSC, ASC, or BAP logo on the packaging.
Look for these logos on the packaging of frozen fish and canned or tinned fish for instant assurance that you're making an environmentally friendly choice.