Sustainable Choices

Seafood Watch Card

Carbon Impact:
Money Savings:
Health Helper:

As a consumer, you have the power to help save our oceans and make seafood cuisine possible long into the future. Ocean fisheries around the world are under stress from intense over-fishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. Some species of fish are on the brink of extinction; we will never again be able to enjoy them—alive in the water or cooked on our plates—if we do not act now to save them. These fish also play key roles in complex ecosystems, and their removal may affect ocean life in ways that we don’t yet even understand. The simplest and most reliable way to join the solution is to follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide when choosing what seafood to buy at the grocery store or order in a restaurant. Each year, the Seafood Watch program updates its list of sustainable fisheries, dividing seafood into three categories: “Best Choice,” “Good Alternatives,” and “Avoid.” You can order a wallet-sized pocket guide online, or simply print one out from your home.

Tips & Tricks
Keep the Seafood Watch guide in your wallet at all times. Whether you’re in a restaurant, at the seafood counter in the market, or at a friend’s house, you never know when the Seafood Watch guide might come in handy. If you know of an event where you could distribute guides, you can order them in large quantities from the Seafood Watch Web site.

Web & Print Resources
Seafood Watch:

Ocean information and resources:

In the kitchen:
Culinary alternatives to endangered fish:


Ocean Friendly Cuisine: Sustainable Seafood Recipes From The World's Finest Chefs, by James A. Fraioli and Jean-Michel Cousteau

Personal Story
This material originally appeared on KQED’s Quest Community Science Blog, in a post entitled “Seafood Choices? You, too, can use this cool tool” by Amy Gotliffe (February, 2007).

Last summer, while visiting family in Charlevoix, Michigan, I found myself with a crew of relatives at a stylish seafood restaurant on the lake. I was craving fresh seafood, so I pulled out my handy Seafood Watch Card ( from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and prepared to order. “What’s that? What are you doing?” asked a nervous looking anonymous parent figure. “People outside of California don’t know about such things. You will embarrass our poor waiter.” Instead of backing down, I tried to educate. I told Anonymous Parent Figure that Seafood Watch Cards are the greatest things since sliced tofu when it comes to choosing sustainable seafood. The guides are pocket sized and fit in your wallet. They have three columns: The green column offers “best choices”, listing fish that are abundant, well managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. The yellow column offers “good alternatives”, fish that may or may not be well farmed or caught. The red column states “avoid” and lists fish that are currently farmed or caught in ways that are harmful to marine life and the marine environment. Fish with a red asterisk are of concern due to mercury. Fish with a blue asterisk are certified as sustainable to the Marine Stewardship Council standard (

The waiter approached. I asked if the salmon in the evening’s special was farmed or wild- caught. He stared at me, puzzled, and somewhat embarrassed. However, he was sweet, open and willing to listen. I told him a bit about the different fishing methods and how some were environmentally friendly and some were not. The waiter listened intently, nodding then shaking his head. He promised to tell his boss that we were concerned. He promised to ask the chef about the salmon and be more informed next time.

To read more, see

Fun Facts

Worldwide, fisheries throw away 25% of their catch.

Farmed salmon is artificially colored pink, because it does not eat the shrimp that give wild salmon their distinctive color. Check the Seafood Watch Web site (link to: to learn which farmed seafood is okay to eat.