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How to make the best seafood choices

If you read our first Conservation blog this month, you will have learned the difference between sustainable and unsustainable seafood – hopefully, you even downloaded Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app! But, even with the app, with all the different types of fish and seafood you might see on a restaurant menu, it can get overwhelming trying to learn which fish you can feel good ordering, and which ones you should avoid.

Fortunately, there are a couple of helpful tools you can use to narrow your focus on the fish you might see in your local restaurants and grocery stores. On Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site, you can see and download consumer guides for each state in the U.S. These guides break it down into three shorter seafood lists – best choices, good alternatives and avoid.

The best thing you can do to protect marine environments and species is to learn your state’s “avoid” list. These species of fish and seafood may be overfished, caught or farmed using destructive or unhealthy methods, or they just aren’t managed appropriately. Some fish will have alternatives, but others, like shark, you should learn to always avoid. Some things you’ll see on the “avoid” list might surprise you.

If you live in Georgia, you may notice that shrimp pop up on the “avoid” list. Shrimp are often caught using bottom trawls, which are wide, heavy nets dragged across the sea floor scraping up anything in their path like a bulldozer. This is obviously a very destructive method of fishing and is responsible for killing all types of coral, sea sponges and other marine life that live on the seafloor. For every pound of shrimp caught using this method, six pounds of other marine life is caught and discarded.

If you’re really craving shrimp, consult your handy consumer guide, and you’ll see the best choice would be shrimp farmed in the U.S., so look for that. Some good alternatives would be wild caught shrimp around the U.S. and Canada or shrimp farmed in Ecuador or Honduras. If you don’t see any labels and aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to just ask your server or grocer where the shrimp was caught or farmed – it’s the least you could do to help save a beautiful coral reef.

Another quick tool you can use to easily make sustainable choices is the “Find seafood near you” button in the Seafood Watch app. This will pull up all the nearby restaurants and grocery stores that are partners with Seafood Watch, meaning all their seafood was fished or farmed sustainably. Whole Foods and Red Lobster recently became partners. If you would like a healthy ocean, support these businesses next time you’re in the mood for some seafood.

Please learn more about Seafood Watch and make 2019 a sustainable seafood year!

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