Become a smart and conscious seafood buyer.
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Credit: Veronica Garbutt/Getty Images

The seafood counter can sometimes be a little (or a lot) confusing to navigate. You want to purchase the best quality catch for your budget, but you also want to be more aware of where your seafood is coming from. The notion that wild-caught fish is a far superior purchase over farm-raised fish may not be true in all cases—but how are you supposed to know when? You as a home cook have a lot more power in your purchase than you know when it comes to sustainable seafood, so make them with confidence. When in doubt, The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is the best online resource to answer all your seafood inquiries. Want to know if a certain fish is overfished, under-fished, safe, or on the brink of extinction? The Seafood Watch has you covered.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is a program that aims to bring awareness to the public and businesses about seafood issues that affect our food supply and the environment. Since 1999, the Seafood Watch has worked diligently to promote change in fishing operations through policy and education. A few of the issues that the program tackles include illegal fishing, humane fisherman workers’ rights, and endangered fish restoration. These issues are no small feats that can be accomplished by one group alone; that’s why it is imperative that consumers understand their role in the entire seafood chain, which is ultimately driven by demand.

The Seafood Watch site is easy to navigate and provides recommendations as to which seafoods are best choices, good alternatives, and which you should avoid. Their recommendations are derived from standards developed by leading scientists, published research, government guidelines, and by fishing professionals in the industry. If you’re curious about a certain fish, simply enter it into the “search” field, and an easy-to-follow chart pops up with the fish’s current environmental status. The site provides clear and concise information as to why each recommendation is suggested.

For example for you looked up “Atlantic salmon” the best choice of purchase is farmed Atlantic salmon raised in a closed-tank method, which is available worldwide. The closed-tanks method is a form of farm-raising fish in a circulating tank of treated and recycled water. The environment is controlled; however, this method uses high amounts of electricity and can be costly. The “good alternative” recommendation for Atlantic salmon are those farm-raised in net pens— a method where fish are contained in pens submerged in offshore waters. That said, you ought to note that the type of Atlantic salmon to avoid are also farm-raised in net pens, but only from Scotland, Chile, Canada British Colombia, Norway, and Canada Atlantic. For many, farm-raised being the recommended choice over wild is a surprising find, but the site even states that, “In the next decade, the majority of fish we eat will be farm-raised, not wild.”

So the next time you’re waiting at the seafood counter, and want to do your part is keeping our oceans and seafood in good shape, hit up the Seafood Watch. They have a free app (available in the Apple App Store and Google Play) that allows you to track down the info you need instantly. After all, an informed consumer is a savvier shopper, and an overall better contributor to the environment.

By Briana Riddock and Briana Riddock