The Editors

Net Benefits: 9 Top Eco-Friendly Fish and Seafood Choices

fish and seafood recipesWhat’s an eco-conscious seafood lover to do? Anyone concerned with the environmental impact of the food they buy can look for the USDA “organic” label on everything from apples to smoked sausage, but one big swath of the grocery store remains organic-free: the seafood counter. There are currently no national standards for what might constitute “organic” seafood.


Thankfully, the experts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program have studied fish and seafood populations the world over, evaluated how they’re caught (or farmed) and come up with a handy pocket guide to let consumers know whether today’s catch is ecologically nasty or nice — and in the nick of time. Many fish populations have plummeted worldwide, while marine biologists estimate that humans have taken as much as 90 percent of large predatory fish, such as shark and swordfish, from the world’s seas.


The aquarium’s guide is easy to follow, though you still often have to pay close attention to where the fish you’re buying is from and how it was caught. For example, wild-caught Alaskan salmon gets an enthusiastic “best choice” designation, while most farmed salmon get a stern “avoid.” Tilapia farmed in the U.S.? Thumbs up! Tilapia farmed in Asia? Thumbs down.


We’ve made it even easier: all of the fish and seafood listed here have been designated “best choice” options by Seafood Watch, and we’ve matched them with recipes that are sure to satisfy your seafood cravings — sans the guilt on the side.




Use U.S. farm-raised catfish to make

Catfish Po’Boys

fish and seafood recipes

Lightly breaded catfish, pan-fried and topped with sweet peppers and coleslaw become a heaping po’ boy that’s hearty enough for dinner. Make sure you’re buying “U.S. farm-raised” catfish, which are raised sustainably — some so-called “catfish” actually come from overseas and are poorly farmed.





Use Pacific cod to make

Baked Cod Casserole

fish and seafood recipes

Most of the Atlantic cod in U.S waters have been severely overfished, but you can still happily enjoy the delectable richness of this tender white fish (as in the robust casserole here) when you look for Pacific cod that comes from the U.S. or Atlantic cod from Iceland.





Use Alaskan halibut to make

Grilled Halibut with Lime and Cilantro

fish and seafood recipes

Mild tasting but firm fleshed, halibut is an exceptionally good fish for grilling, and it takes well to simple flavors that kick it up just a notch, like this lime-and-cilantro marinade. Avoid Atlantic halibut, which have been overfished and are caught using trawls that destroy the ocean floor; Alaskan halibut are more sustainably harvested.





Use farm-raised Arctic char to make

Pan-Seared Arctic Char with Olives and Potatoes

fish and seafood recipes

Most arctic char sold in the United States is farmed in an environmentally responsible way that minimizes pollution and reduces the risks for the farmed fish to impact the health of wild ones. Similar in taste and texture to salmon, arctic char don’t need much fussing over to taste great, as this simple pan-sear recipe demonstrates.





Use farm-raised mussels to make

Sauvignon Blanc–Steamed Mussels with Garlic Toasts

fish and seafood recipes

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, “The U.S. imports most of its mussels from developed nations with stringent environmental regulations.” Which is good news for anyone who savors the delicate taste of mussels steamed in white wine and accompanied by thick slices of toast to sop up the delicious broth.





Use wild-caught Alaskan salmon to make

Glorious Glazed Salmon

fish and seafood recipes

Alaska’s salmon fisheries are some of the best-managed fisheries in the world, so you can’t go wrong (either in terms of taste or environmental responsibility) with wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Farmed salmon is another story; many sustainable fisheries experts charge that salmon farms pollute heavily and can sicken nearby wild salmon populations.





Use farm-raised scallops to make

Creamy Scallop & Pea Fettuccine

fish and seafood recipes

Pan-seared scallops luxuriate in a creamy (yet surprisingly healthy) sauce that’s brightened with green peas. The Monterey Bay Aquarium recommends farmed scallops or wild diver-caught sea scallops from Mexico.





Use Atlantic striped bass to make

Striped Bass with Sweet Carrots and Cider Glaze

fish and seafood recipes

Atlantic striped bass are an environmental success story: the majority of the population spawns in the Chesapeake Bay. Thirty years ago, the bay was so polluted that the population plummeted, but today the bay is cleaner and the fish have rebounded. Tender and moist, striped bass stands up well to bold, acidic flavors, like this cider glaze.





Use U.S. farm-raised tilapia to make

Tilapia Tacos with Chipotle Cream

fish and seafood recipes

Tilapia is a good, versatile white fish, perfect for these fiesta-spiced fish tacos. Be careful when you shop, though: the Monterey Bay Aquarium ranks U.S. farmed tilapia as a “best choice”; farmed tilapia from Central and South America as an acceptable alternative; but strongly discourages tilapia farmed in Asia because of poor environmental regulations.





Go fish! Check out all our fish and seafood recipes!





7 Responses to “Net Benefits: 9 Top Eco-Friendly Fish and Seafood Choices”

  • Soila says:

    I might hope that I am healthy in both mind, body, and spirit. I would really like to travel the entire world with my family. That would be attractive.

  • Lekisha says:

    Being healthy to travel around the world. Have a very beach home near the water.

  • audrey haskins says:

    I just started being a vegan should I be concerned about mercury.

    • Elaine says:

      absolutely you must be aware that if you eat a lot of fish, you may have mercury toxicity. Have your Dr. do a simple blood test. Check out a list of fish that are less likely to be high in mercury. I did not know that I had a problem and my number was too high. now I still eat fish but am very careful of the size of the fish and stay away from tuna, swordfish, and other problem fish.

  • Sandra says:

    Personally, I love seafood Although after watching the news, they say that most of the seafood we think we are buying had been replaced by a cheaper type fish.
    Also I agree wth Jason, I would be leary buying fish from China, we dont really know where our fish is coming from, if they are able to sell a certain fish under a false name who knows it they are telling the truth about where it comes from!

  • cupcake says:

    I buy tilapia from walmart, farm raised from china, it as aquaruim stamp on package. It’s okay, right?

    • Jason Best says:

      Hi Cupcake,
      Thanks for your question! Unfortunately, at this time the Seafood Watch program recommends that customers avoid tilapia that’s been farm-raised in China and other Asian countries because the farming methods are poorly regulated. The fish are typically farmed in “open” systems, which can cause pollution and allow sick fish to escape and infect wild fish, among other things. For tilapia, Seafood Watch recommends fish farmed in the U.S. as the “Best Choice” because farming is better regulated in this country, and they recommend fish farmed in Central and South America as a “Good Alternative.” As I note in the article, Seafood Watch has a great pocket guide you can download from their website, which summarizes their recommendations. Often, the labels on seafood packaging are designed to make you think the product is environmentally friendly, but such labels can be misleading. –Jason

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