Seafood is healthy and flavorful, but choosing the best requires a little research.
Look for three things when choosing which fish to buy: a wild population that’s abundant enough to sustain fishing; low levels of wasted catch, called “bycatch”; and fish caught or farmed in ways that protect the environment.
Here are some good choices:
Albacore/tombo tuna. Almost all of the albacore you will find in the market is from Pacific fisheries, which use hook-and-line methods that result in little or no bycatch. Albacore is overfished in the South Atlantic. In the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, it’s considered fully fished.
Calamari strips and steaks (Pacific squid). Pacific squid, found in New Zealand and China, see low bycatch levels. They are abundant, and the current amount of fishing is sustainable.
Calamari, whole (Market Squid). Market squid, available on the U.S. Pacific coast, breed rapidly and their natural life cycle is just one year long. At a moderate bycatch level and with improved management, market squid could sustain the current level of fishing.
Catfish. All catfish you’ll find in markets and restaurants is U.S. farm-raised. Catfish eat a vegetable-based diet and are raised in freshwater ponds with little impact on the environment.
Dungeness crab. The Dungeness crab fishery in Northern California is well managed and healthy. Only large male crabs may be caught, and there’s no fishing allowed during the breeding season.
Halibut. Good management is keeping Pacific halibut populations relatively healthy, but the Atlantic halibut fishery has collapsed. Alaska halibut has the lowest level of bycatch.
Mahi-mahi (dorado, dolphinfish). Hawaii’s Mahi-mahi breed rapidly and can probably withstand a lot of fishing. Populations are healthy, although there are no management plans to prevent future overfishing.
Rainbow trout. Idaho-raised rainbow trout are farmed inland, using closed systems that don’t release polluted water.
Salmon. Wild salmon from a well-regulated fishery is the most environmentally sound choice.
Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries are healthy and well regulated. California’s wild-caught salmon are managed effectively. The length of the fishing season is adjusted to maintain sustainable populations.
The majority of California’s wild-caught salmon were most likely hatched in hatcheries, many of which are supported by commercial fishermen through California’s Salmon Stamp program.
Striped bass and sturgeon. Striped bass are farmed inland on the U.S. West Coast, using closed systems that don’t release polluted water.
Tilapia. Tilapia grow fast, eat a vegetable-based diet, and are raised in inland ponds. Farm-raised tilapia has the least environmental impact of any farmed fish.