Choosing Your Seafood Dinner


I like salmon. We pan fry it up about once a week and its sizzling oil brings us healthy omega 3’s. I’ve written before how I checked that we’re not eating the type of salmon that our local endangered resident Orcas need to survive. Buying the wild Alaska non-King salmon at my local market feeds us without threatening the Orca whales.

But what works for me won’t apply to other people’s tastes and other places. Each person or family chooses their seafood dinners in their own way, whether by price, by hankering, or what’s good for the planet. If your seafood choices have gotten confusing, here are some tips.

Buy Smaller and Wilder

If you want to keep it simple it’s a good bet to rely on two guidelines - eat smaller and eat wilder. Smaller fish have lower loads of undesirable toxins and, as an extra benefit, tend to be cheaper overall. Wild seafood avoids many of the problems of farmed fish which has to be very carefully selected.


Buy Smarter

Maybe you’d like more details on your dinner choices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood guide for consumers is one of the most respected. Different pages let you search for the info you want by state or by fish in printable and smart phone formats.


Let’s say you’re having a cup of coffee and browsing the weekly food ads. If you go ahead and check their page for your state, you can scan their “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” and compare them to what’s on sale. If you are already at the fish counter, you can do the same with a smart phone; if you’re like me and better with a printer, pull out your little wallet version of the guide.

If you’d rather skip the ads and already know the kind of seafood you want, go to their search box page where you type in what you have a craving for. When I typed in “salmon” the listings showed many good and bad sources, sustainable and not.                                                            

Seafood Labeling

I wish I could tell you that supermarkets are as careful about labeling the seafood as they are about displaying it. (Our markets all have those little green plastic dividers that we are supposed to think are parsley.) It would be so helpful if they used something like the Monterey Best Choices labels which take into account what stocks are overfished, which are sustainable, how and where the fish are caught.


Sorry. That is not happening. The labeling of fish is confusing and often very creative. “Organic”, for example, seems even less reliable than when used for our food grown on land.  Although a label of “wild” might be better than “farmed”, there are situations where we’d all be better off with a farmed choice. For more on this fish farm confusion, tune in next time.