Apps I Love: Seafood Watch

We were talking in Marine Bio the other day about sustainable fisheries and I was surprised to find out more people didn’t know about Seafood Watch, an app run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I only learned about it in January while I was eating brunch at The Border Grill in Las Vegas. The restaurant, whose chefs are familiar to fans of Top Chef Masters, is committed to including only sustainably-sourced seafood on its menu. They even go so far as to include a Seafood Watch cheat sheet in every check folder. It’s an easy move and a commendable effort at informing the dining public.

After a great conversation with my server, I downloaded the app and it’s been a pretty handy resource.  You enter in the type of seafood that you’re considering buying or ordering and the app will give it a rating – “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” or “Avoid.” If you’re considering something from the “Avoid” list, the app will suggest more sustainable/environmentally-friendly alternatives. For example, let’s say you’re considering buying Atlantic cod from Canada. The app would tell you to avoid it and lead you to Atlantic cod from Iceland (which is caught using a handline, instead of a bottom-trawler), Pacific cod or even US farmed Cobia. Few, if any, consumers would notice a culinary change, but given how cod stocks in the North Atlantic have suffered over the past few decades, this small switch, if adopted by enough people, could have a major impact.

If you’re a fan of sushi, Seafood Watch’s sushi list is also really helpful, although it may be heartbreaking for many out there. On the “Avoid” list are some of my personal favorites – hamachi, maguro, ebi, unagi… There are some exceptions based on where exactly the species are sourced from and how they’re caught, but it’s a grim list. On the other hand, it’s been pretty fun to explore alternatives and to discover new sashimi and sushi I’d never considered before.

I highly recommend Seafood Watch for the environmentally conscious piscivores out there. It’s easy and eye-opening, and, if we can all do our part, we can help change consumer demand and give some sorely suffering stocks time to recover.

One fish, two fish…

• If you want even more Seafood Watch, check out the website. In addition to all of the stuff from the app, there’s an expanded section on the issues facing the world’s oceans, the double-edged sword of aquaculture/mariculture and other relevant issues.

• If you’re interested in this kind of thing, this article from NPR’s Food for Thought blog is pretty interesting, albeit controversial.

• I don’t know of any sustainable sushi restaurants in Boston, but there’s one in near Yale in New Haven – Miya’s. Expect long waits and an ever-changing menu.


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