Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Eating Sustainable Seafood Made Easy

Making sure that you eat sustainably harvested seafood has just gotten even easier, thanks to the eco-conscious folks over at the Monterey Bay Aquarium who run the Seafood Watch program. For years, they've been publishing those handy pocket-sized "Seafood Watch" cards to help you pick the most sustainable seafood, whether you're buying fish at the market or dining out. Those pocket guides are available for six U.S. regions, as well as in a specialty sushi edition (all available as PDFs here). But now you can skip the paper altogether, and just download the free iPhone or iPod touch application. It's customizable to whatever U.S. region you happen to be traveling in, which is a lot more convenient than carrying around all of those paper guides.

If you live in California, or even if you just buy seafood caught offshore here, buying sustainable seafood at the grocery store will soon get easier, too. Two months ago, Assembly Bill 1217 was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Assembly Member Bill Monning from Carmel, just down the road from the fishing port of Monterey. AB 1217 will develop a voluntary program for labeling seafood caught by California fisheries that have been certified as sustainable by the California Ocean Protection Council, also using the Seafood Watch program standards.

That's good news for consumers who want to make more informed seafood buying choices. But it's probably not such good news for Trader Joe's, which earlier this year received the worst scores of any national supermarket chain when it comes to selling sustainable seafood, as rated by Greenpeace (again, using the Seafood Watch list standards). Even mega-retailers such as Walmart ranked better than TJ's in a mid-2009 evaluation. (Whole Foods, incidentally, came in third.) For the full nationwide scorecard results, click here.

When you're shopping for seafood, you can also look for the blue sticker of sustainability as certified by the international Marine Stewardship Council.

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