Eat More Seafood Part 1: What to Buy

As I stated in my last post, Americans are not eating enough seafood-an average of only 3.5 ounces a week, when we should be eating at least 8 ounces a week.  From my perspective I see three obstacles keeping many people from eating seafood regularly. 1: They are intimidated by headlines of fish shortages and and mercury warnings and don’t know what they should or shouldn’t be buying.  2: They think they can’t afford it.  3:  They don’t know how to prep it or cook it.

This week I am going to focus on what to buy.  The goal is to find seafood that is plentiful in the oceans, fished or harvested in a low-impact manner, and low in mercury and other contaminants.  Luckily you have many options, especially if you live on the west coast (the other benefit to living on a coast is the availability of fresh markets where you can by locally, or even directly from the fishermen).


Here are the main points to remember (it’s really very simple):

  1. Buy American: US fisheries are better managed and have more environmental and labor regulations than other countries.  Because of the rigid fishing regulations in the US, if you see a fish for sale that was wild caught in the US, you can feel good about eating it.  If a species of fish is considered “overfished”, it won’t be caught and you won’t see in on the market.  Boycotting wild US caught fish only hurts the fishermen who catch it!  West cost waters are cleaner and Alaskan waters are the cleanest (Alaska also has the best managed fisheries).  
File:Salmon to buy.jpg

photo by Jeremy Keith

  • Read the Labels: If you’re at the grocery store, fish market, or restaurant and you can’t tell where the seafood is from, or how it was caught, ask someone.  Don’t be afraid to ask your grocer or chef where their seafood comes from, and if they don’t know, don’t buy it!
  • Don’t buy Farmed Salmon: If you aren’t clear on the reason for this, read some of my previous post like “Out of Control Sea Lice”, “My Discussion with a Salmon Farmer”, “Study Shows: Fish Farms Harm Wild Sockeye”.  If a fish is labelled “Atlantic Salmon,” it is farmed.  Make sure it says “Wild.”

I know there is a lot of info out there to sift through, but hopefully this will help you select a few types of seafood that you can enjoy eating with a clean conscience.

In my next post, I will explain how to eat the 2-3 recommended servings a week of seafood without changing your grocery budget.

3 thoughts on “Eat More Seafood Part 1: What to Buy

  1. You jumped right out and listed the main problem,the four guides to eating “sustainable” seafood all have their own agendas that are not compatible with commercial fishing for wild caught fish.
    The consumer read these publications and refuses to eat at a restaurant that(for example) serves Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper not knowing we are knee deep in snapper and always have been except in the bottom of the cycle years.
    Mission accomplished,the snapper wasn’t sold and after a time is taken off the menu,one more choice gone.Dealer lost a sale and his inventory stacks up,he cuts the price to sell and cuts the price paid to the fisherman along with the amount he will buy next trip.Soon the fisherman can’t justify even going because he can’t sell many and the price is low,so harvest goes down,fishery’s managers see a alarming trend here that tells them snapper are in big trouble because catches are way down so they restrict the fishery even further citing collapse of the stock.

    • Ronnie,
      I have issues too with the way that these organizations determine what is sustainable. They often use outdated or poorly researched data. But, I don’t know a better alternative. Do you know of any guides that are 100% accurate? Which do you like best? I am not as familiar with Gulf of Mexico seafood as I am with West Coast seafood, so I’d be really interested to hear which seafoods you feel are misrepresented by the major seafood guides.
      I think that it is really important to regularly get seafood in your diet, and I hear from people that they won’t eat seafood because they don’t know what to eat/they don’t want to make the wrong choice, so they don’t make any choice. I think these guides are mostly correct and are an easy reference for consumers to help them get seafood in their diet.
      Thanks for your response!

  2. Robin,

    This is a great post on how to choose healthy seafood. I also agree that buying sustainable seafood is very important, as it ensure the future of not only our environment, but also our fishing industry.

    Ronnie, do you have any suggestions on sustainable and surplus fish to look out for on the East Coast?

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