How to buy ocean friendly, environmentally friendly and children friendly fish

Brown Pelican covered in BP Oil Slick
Brown Pelican covered in BP Oil Slick (Source: Boston Globe)

My heart just broke when I saw these images on Boston Globe today.  If this is the plight of the birds then imagine what’s happening to the fish and seafood in the depths of the Ocean?

Since the gulf oil spill, I have been struggling with buying seafood for Simone, partly because I don’t know how safe the fish is and partly because it doesn’t feel right to buy fish right now. Simone, my almost 3 year old, loves loves loves fish.  Seafood is great for the kids!  It is full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for brain development and a very important part of the diet for young children, pregnant and nursing women. Furthermore, you can cook fish in under 10 minutes regardless of whether you BBQ, broil, bake, sauté, curry, or eat raw (sushi) and that makes for quick dinners for working parents, actually all parents really.

Do you know which fish to buy for the kids and the family?  The Monterey Aquarium has a fantastic guide that you can physically download and store in your wallet or download an iPhone app that tells you which fish to eat based on the environmental impact as well as the mercury content. They have multiple guides for all the US regions – Hawaii, Northeast, Southeast, West Coast etc so you can download one based on where you are located. A very handy guide to help you make smart and healthier choices!

Seafood Guide

If you are on the West Coast, stick to eating the fish listed in the “Best Choices” column below as these have been obtained in an environmentally ocean friendly manner, good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, and are low in mercury (except for the ones with *):

Best Choices Good Alternatives Avoid
Abalone (US farmed)

Arctic Char (farmed)

Barramundi (US farmed)

Catfish (US farmed)

Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed)

Cobia (US farmed)

Cod: Pacific (Alaska longline)+

Crab: Dungeness

Halibut: Pacific+

Lobster: Spiny (US)

Rockfish: Black (CA, OR)*

Sablefish/Black Cod (Alaska+, BC)

Salmon (Alaska wild)+

Sardines: Pacific (US)

Scallops: Bay (farmed)

Shrimp: Pink (OR)+

Striped Bass (farmed or wild*)

Tilapia (US farmed)

Trout: Rainbow (farmed)

Tuna: Albacore (troll/pole, US+ or BC)

Tuna: Skipjack (troll/pole)

White Seabass

Caviar, Sturgeon (US farmed)

Clams, Oysters (wild)

Cod: Pacific (US trawled)

Crab: King (US), Snow

Flounders, Sanddabs, Soles (Pacific)

Halibut: California


Lobster: American/Maine

Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (US)

Pollock (Alaska wild)+

Rockfish (Alaska or BC, hook & line)*

Sablefish/Black Cod (CA, OR, WA)

Salmon (WA wild)*

Scallops: Sea (wild)

Shrimp (US, Canada)

Spot Prawn (US)


Swai, Basa (farmed)

Swordfish (US)*

Tilapia (Central America farmed)

Tuna: Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole)

Tuna: Canned Skipjack and Albacore

Caviar, Sturgeon* (imported wild)

Chilean Seabass/Toothfish*

Cod: Atlantic, imported Pacific

Cobia (imported farmed)

Crab: King (imported)

Dogfish (US)*

Grenadier/Pacific Roughy

Lobster: Spiny (Caribbean)

Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)

Marlin: Blue*, Striped*


Orange Roughy*

Rockfish (trawled)*

Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic)*


Shrimp (imported)

Swordfish (imported)*

Tilapia (Asia farmed)

Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin


Tuna: Bluefin*, Tongol, Canned

(except Albacore and Skipjack)

Yellowtail (imported farmed

The current guides were done in January 2010 and once the spill is contained the Seafood Watch group (Monterey Aquarium) will be evaluating the impact of the spill on marine life and its safety for human consumption. Given that the BP oil spill will have an impact on the wild shrimp, fish and oysters from Gulf of Mexico and even farmed oysters and farmed shrimp, now is the best time to eat fish that is healthy for the ocean, healthy for the environment, and healthy for the children regardless of where you live!

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  1. Liz says:

    Great blog post! I have been looking into sustainable fish sources for us here in the UK – I’m glad to see that people ‘across the pond’ are taking these issues seriously too.

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