It’s common knowledge that our oceans are in trouble. Coral reefs are dying, the glaciers are melting and our precious seafood resources are being overfished. These problems are huge, and finding the solution is a daunting task.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app seeks to help consumers protect the oceans by choosing ocean-friendly seafood. Whether you’re browsing a menu in the sushi restaurant or standing at the fish counter of the grocery store, the Seafood Watch app provides quick and easy answers. If you’re concerned about where your seafood comes from and supporting sustainable fishing, you may find the Seafood Watch app to be a useful pocket guide. Keep reading to find out more about saving our oceans.
The Seafood Watch app allows you access to the most current recommendations for sustainable seafood and sushi by either searching for a specific name or browsing the guides. Every type of seafood listed in the app is categorized as Avoid, Best Choice or Good Alternative. These labels are based on fishing practices, such as whether techniques to catch or farm the fish harm the surrounding marine life, or if the species is threatened due to overfishing. The Best Choice label confirms a well-managed population that is fished or farmed in an environmentally friendly way. Seafood labeled Avoid may be overfished, or caught or farmed using techniques that harm the marine environment. Good Alternative means proceed carefully, as there are concerns regarding the health and habitat of these populations.
Let’s say you’re standing at the fish counter in the grocery store looking to buy some salmon for dinner tonight. Type “salmon” into the search box and you’ll find a list of 10 different types, including farmed Cobia from the United States or wild-caught Alaska salmon. The results are listed in alphabetical order, though it might be more usable if they were displayed according to sustainability: Best Choice items listed first, then Good Alternative and then Avoid. Tap on a name to get more information, including a picture of the seafood, other names it may go by, and a description of why it’s labeled Avoid or Best Choice, etc. The world of seafood labeling can be confusing, and knowing that Cobia is also called Black Kingfish, Black Salmon, Ling and Lemonfish is very helpful.
Tap on the Summary button for an in-depth (pun-intended) description of the habitats and fishing methods of Cobia. Monterey Bay Aquarium doesn’t want you to just follow their guidelines mindlessly, and that’s the beautiful thing about the Seafood Watch app — it encourages independent thinking on the part of the consumer by arming you with knowledge. You’ll learn why U.S. farmed Cobia is Best Choice (it’s farmed in a closed system which minimizes pollution and transmission of diseases to wild marine life). You’ll also learn it’s important to Avoid Cobia farmed outside the U.S. because it’s farmed in submerged cages on open ocean waters, which increases the risk of ocean pollution and negative effects on marine wildlife.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has recently added location based services to the Seafood Watch app. Now you can find sustainable seafood providers based on your location and contribute your own sources for sustainable seafood (restaurants and markets) to Project Fish Map. Simply tap the Find this Nearby button on each seafood information card and enable Location Services. I found the Cobia Salmon at three nearby locations (two retailers and one restaurant). Tap on the location and you’ll find a list of other sustainable seafood offered by that seller. This information is based on app user experience and reports, so as Seafood Watch says, if you “see something fishy,” you can tap that button and report it.
Below the Find this Nearby button is the Add to Project FishMap blue button, which allows you to “Let others know where you’ve found ocean-friendly seafood.” Select the correct seafood name and then tap the Find Your Location box. The app utilizes your iPhone’s GPS to compile a list of nearby restaurants and merchants — quite handy if you are near the place you’re mapping. There is also a search box if you’re looking to map that restaurant where you slurped down sustainable oysters while on vacation a few weeks ago. Select the correct restaurant or market, then the app requires you register a username to add to Project Fishmap. Luckily, it’s a quick and painless task made easier by the knowledge that you are helping other users locate sustainable seafood.
Once you’ve added a sustainable seller to the FishMap, there are several options for continuing on: You can Add More, Share (Facebook and Twitter), select Done and return to the app, or See What Other Badges You Can Earn. Monterey Bay Aquarium appeals to the Boy or Girl Scout in all of us by awarding badges to those who contribute valuable information that makes the app smarter and more functional. Keep track of your badges and see what other badges are left to be unlocked. It may sound cheesy, but a true foodie wouldn’t mind earning the Sushi Master badge or laying claim to the Clam Digger badge with the first geoduck report.
I’ve been using the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app to make sustainable seafood choices in restaurants and markets for years. This app has a simple, yet attractive design and navigating the information is a breeze. This a valuable source of information on sustainable seafood because it sites actual standards from the Marine Stewardship Council. Only recently has Monterey Bay Aquarium added Fishmap Project and the location based services. The app will only become smarter as more users contribute their real-life findings. How often do you come across a free app that not only helps you, but also lets you help others and the environment? If you enjoy eating seafood and are looking for guidance on doing so sustainably, check out Seafood Watch.