Posts Tagged ‘seafood watch’

This year, I finally entered the modern era with the purchase of a smartphone.  When searching for applications that could take advantage of the amazing computing power of this little machine, I was overwhelmed with choices.  There are programs that run the gamut from fun to functional, and I was doing my level best not to buy anything that would not keep me too glued to my phone and out of the real world.  Being environmentally and socially conscious, I was pleasantly surprised to see a growing number of applications that not only could keep me informed of my surroundings, but may even help to improve how I care for the earth, make smart purchases, and support my community.

Seafood Watch-  Concerned about the health of the oceans, but still long for a fish dinner?  The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, a digital version of their popular laminated card, lets you know which fish are safe to eat, most sustainable, and which to avoid.  The latest version also allows diners to share their favorite restaurants and markets that provide conscious ocean fare.  Sushi guides even give the correct Japanese term for what you order to clear up any cross-cultural confusion.  Best yet, it is free to download for both iPhone and Android.

GoodGuide- Making purchases with the well-being and safety of both your body and the planet in mind can be challenging when staring at the thousands of choices lining the shelves of your local supermarket or drugstore.  Enter GoodGuide, an application that allows you to search over 50,000 toys, personal care, and household products and rates them according to health, environment, and social responsibility.  GoodGuide will let you personalize your app, scan barcodes, and is free to download.

greenMeter- Turn your phone into a vehicle efficiency device with greenMeter, which can help calculate your car’s fuel and power usage, and evaluates your driving habits in order to make the most of your gas money.  Results are displayed in real time, and the software asserts that it will pay for itself in savings within 1-2 trips to the gas station.  Available for about $6, it might be worth a try if you are looking to change your driving habits and stay informed as to when you car needs a tuneup.

Skeptical Science- Arguing with a climate change skeptic, but too flustered to answer in a succinct manner?  Need some help with remembering numbers?  Want a good chart or peer-reviewed paper to back up your claim?  John Cook’s Skeptical Science iPhone App could help you convert a non-believer using cold, hard data.  It also provides responses to the top 10 most used denial phrases.  Climate nerds may also enjoy the Global Warming Prediction app that uses land, sea and air temperatures to create aggregate models and forecast the weather.

Sky Map- Looking at the night sky, it could be a bit of a challenge for those of us modern hominids who have lost much of the knowledge of our forebears.  Luckily, Sky Map uses GPS, compass, and accelerometer data to take a picture of the stars, and tell you the name of the constellation in question.  Moving your phone against the sky, the screen registers a representation of the cosmos where you can search for astronomical curiosities, save searches, turn layers on and off, and track the movement of heavenly bodies.  Free for Android users.


Living on the coast of California, residents of San Luis Obispo County are lucky to have access to fresh, delicious seafood.  Being conscientious of our own personal health as well as that of our oceans, we offer the following tips on how to reel in the healthiest dish without driving any sensitive marine habitats the way of Atlantis.

Be on the lookout for fish, crustaceans and mollusks that are sustainably harvested and products of robust ecosystems. And try to keep an even keel: avoid bottom-feeders (like catfish) that can act like catch-alls for mercury and other heavy metals, and, for the same reason, be wary of top-feeders (like swordfish) that eat just about everything.

When shopping or ordering from restaurants, here are a couple of tips and resources to help you make wise choices for both your body and the environment:

1.  Buy smart. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has just launched a new Seafood Watch App for Andriod and iPhones to aid consumers in making wise purchases.  Now, in addition to its small, laminated card advising which fish to avoid and which are safe to eat in a sustainable manner, the Watch’s application allows you to share restaurant locations, markets, and businesses in an effort to start building a network of mindful eaters.

Fish are rated with “Avoid”, “Best Choice” and “Good Alternative” rankings to guide decisions.  Designations are based on the level of harm done by fishing gear used during harvest, the impact on the species’ population, the amount of bycatch produced, and how well the fishery or farm is managed.  The site also offers recipes featuring their “Best Choice” fishes, such as the delicious pan-seared tilapia with kale and lemon vinegarette and Pacific cod tacos.

Want even more detailed profiles of your favorite fruits of the sea?  Check out NOAA’s Fish Watch for the skinny on the most common species found on your plate.

2.  Make sure your food is fresh. Once you know what to purchase, make sure that where you buy your catch is clean and properly maintained.  NOAA lists a number of standards your seafood section should meet, such as verifying that the fresh fish display is properly iced, that the fish is arranged belly down so that melting ice drains away, and that there is no strong fishy, ammonia or sour-like smell.  As for the animal itself, the eyes should be clear (with the exception of cloudy-eyed fish like walleye pike) and bulging slightly.  Fillets are to be firm to the touch while a whole fish should have bright skin and red gills.  Do not buy meat that is dull around the edges, turning brown, green, or yellow, or mushy.  Avoid shellfish with cracked or broken shells, and when buying live molluscs, tap them to ensure that they close when provoked (or else you are just harassing a dead and possibly rotting animal).

If you opt for frozen, check to make sure that packages are in tact and positioned above the freezer’s frost line.  If you can see into the plastic, take a look for ice crystals.  Frost on the food may indicate that it has been thawed and refrozen, a possible sign that there could have been enough time for spoilage to occur.

3.  Read labels carefully.  While this may seem like common sense, it is vitally important to take heed of warnings and processing notes.  This is especially true in the case of shellfish, where the FDA requires harvesters to certify that these bottom dwellers were handled in accordance to safety controls.  Checking the area in which the animal was caught may also indicate the health of its habitat, whether or not it was farmed in a sustainable fashion, or how it was harvested.

4.  Be aware of allergies and special needs.  Needless to say, if you are allergic to shellfish, make a point of asking after the ingredients of the Daily Special or a friend’s potluck dish.  If you are a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding, there are a number of warnings that you should consider before ingesting any product of the ocean.  The presence of heavy metals that accumulate up the food chain creates the possibility of neurological,  nervous, and developmental problems in babies.  Pregnant women would do best to steer clear of sword fish, shark, mackerel, and tilefish due to high levels of mercury.  Some smoked fish exposes moms-to-be and those with immune deficiencies at risk of listersosis, a food-borne illness.  For a list of safe fish for mothers, browse the FDA’s Food Safety Guide for Moms-To-Be to find out what is safe to eat.

5.  Be an informed fisherman.  All recreational anglers out there want to be careful of where and when they drop their lines.  In addition to obtaining the proper licenses and permits, the concerned fisherman can ascertain catch-limits, look into fishery closures, and keep up to date on important bulletins by visiting NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program.  Keep an eye on local conditions by monitoring beach health, sewage spills, red tide and algae blooms.

What are some of your summertime favorite seafood recipes?  Anything on your “fish-list” that makes your mouth water?