how to choose the best fish

words by Emily Weber | photo by Jennifer Johnson

It’s hard to know how to make the most sustainable choice at the fish market, and sometimes the local option isn’t always best.

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch app makes the choice a lot easier. The free app, available for Android and iPhone, tells you what seafood items are the most sustainable and provides recommendations for “Best Choices”, “Good Alternatives”, and items you should avoid. For example, if you’re in the store picking out cod for dinner you can read the “Cod Overview” which recommends the following: “Buy Pacific cod caught in Alaska. Then look for a ‘Good Alternative’ from the U.S. West Coast and British Columbia, Canada, but know that these sources have environmental issues. Say ‘No, thanks’ to Atlantic cod, except when it’s caught by the Marine Stewardship Council. Also, steer clear of Pacific cod from Japan and Russia.”

If you’re flexible about the type of seafood you are purchasing, you can use the app to find more information about the options at your local market, U.S. North Atlantic Mackerel for example, and make an educated purchase from there. Or, if you’re out for sushi, the app allows you to search anything by its English or Japanese name (i.e. Eel or Unagi).

The app also takes into account the health benefits of different fish and recommends them in tandem with their sustainability. The app’s “Super Green List” recommends five A+ sustainable fish options with low-levels of mercury and high levels of omega 3s: Atlantic Mackerel (purse seine, from Canada and the U.S.), Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.), Pacific Sardines (wild-caught), Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska), and Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska).

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program also works with business partners to help them supply the most sustainable fish to their customers. When you enter in your zip code it will point you to the nearest Seafood Watch Partner, including restaurants, fish markets, and major retailers. The listed partners have committed to sell only “environmentally responsible seafood and help transform the marketplace in favor of more responsible fisheries and aquaculture operations.” One of their biggest ocean-friendly partners that probably has a location near you? Whole Foods.

To learn more about Seafood Watch visit: or download the app in your app store. 

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