Are there seafood guides available in other languages and other countries?
Our West Coast and National consumer guides are available in Spanish. Our guides are not applicable in other countries; however, our Seafood Resources page has links to international information.
How do I know where my seafood comes from?
As a consumer, it's often difficult to know where seafood comes from when you're faced with all the options at your local supermarket or restaurant. That's why it's important to use our seafood guides as you make your purchasing decision. Supermarkets are required to label unprocessed seafood indicating where it's from and whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught. If this information is not available in a store or on a restaurant menu, we recommend that you ask the following questions:
- Do you know where this seafood comes from?
- Do you know if it's farmed or wild-caught?
- If it's wild, how was it caught?
If the business can't answer these questions, we recommend you choose something else. You might also consider explaining that this information is important to you as a consumer. Your opinion matters to these businesses because you're their bottom line.
How often do you update the seafood guides?
Consumer guides are updated twice a year—once in the winter and again in the summer. Seafood recommendations online are updated as new information becomes available.
What do green, yellow and red mean?
Our recommendations consider the fishery, habitat, species, management and a host of other factors that affect each species. After a thorough review, each seafood item receives a recommendation—either green, yellow or red.Green means "Best Choice"
Buy first, they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.Yellow means "Good Alternative"
Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or farmed.Red means "Avoid"
Don’t buy, they’re overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.
What's "sustainable" seafood?
Seafood Watch defines sustainable seafood as seafood from sources, whether fished or farmed that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of affected ecosystems.
The key issues we look at when evaluating the sustainability of fisheries are:
- Impacts of the fishery on the species under assessment
- Impacts on other capture species
- Effectiveness of management
- Impacts on the habitat and ecosystem
The key issues we look at when evaluating the sustainability of fish farms are:
- Availability of data
- Impacts of effluent
- Impacts on habitat
- Chemical use
- Risk of escapes impacting wild populations
- Risk of disease, pathogen and parasite interaction with wild populations
- Source of stock—independence from wild fish stocks
- Predator and wildlife mortalities
- Escape of unintentionally introduced species
View Our Standards for fisheries and aquaculture (fish farming) to learn about the process we use to evaluate seafood.
Where can I get more information about Seafood Watch?
Why are some farmed fish okay and others are not?
Some of the most popular types of seafood, including salmon and shrimp, can be farm-raised in addition to being caught in the wild. Other seafood items are almost exclusively farmed, such as tilapia and catfish. Some types of fish farming, also referred to as aquaculture, have more impact on the environment than others. The impact depends in part on what type of fish is being farmed, what type of farming method is being used and where the farm is located.
Why do seafood choices matter?
The choices we make as consumers drive the seafood marketplace. Your purchasing power can make a difference by supporting those fisheries and fish farms that are better for the environment, while at the same time relieving pressure on others that are not doing as well. With more than 75 percent of the world's fisheries either fully fished or overfished, these issues are more important than ever. By using the seafood guide for your region, you're making choices based on the best available information and supporting environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations.
Do you include information about health benefits or toxins in seafood?
The human health impact of consuming seafood is a very important issue; however, we do not feel qualified to make medical recommendations beyond what is advised by the federal government.
There are several agencies and organizations at the state and federal levels that provide consumption advisories, health risk assessments and information about environmental sources for these contaminants.
Should I be concerned about radiation in my seafood?
The Seafood Watch program relies on outside organizations and government agencies for the analysis required to determine any potential human health impacts from environmental causes, including radiation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency in charge of monitoring food for radioactivity and it tests for radiation as part of its rigorous monitoring programs that ensure the safety of seafood in the market today. The FDA also works closely with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to monitor and sample the radiation levels of seafood in the ocean. For the most up-to-date guidance on seafood and other food safety, visit the FDA Response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Facility Incident.
What about "dolphin safe" tuna?
Large, mature yellowfin in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean school together with dolphin pods. In the 1950s, fishermen discovered they could catch these yellowfin by setting their nets around the pods of dolphins. In the 1980s, when this became more widely publicized, fishermen changed their practices due to consumer pressure and began using large pieces of wood or other devices shaped like dolphins to lure tunas into their nets. Because there is still so much bycatch using these devices, many conservationists and fishermen feel this method of fishing for tuna is not the solution.
In 1990, the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA) prohibited labeling tuna cans "dolphin safe" if the tuna was harvested using methods harmful to dolphins. In a separate agreement called the Panama Declaration, several Latin American nations agreed to hold the total annual dolphin mortality below 5,000 in exchange for the amendment of this U.S. dolphin-safe standard. The amendment allows fishermen to set nets on dolphins to catch larger, mature tuna that school under dolphins, and then back down the net to let the dolphins jump over and escape.
While this back-down technique appeared to be a viable solution, more recent research has shown this activity causes undue stress to dolphins that may affect their long-term survival. On average, a northeastern spinner dolphin is chased 11 times per year and caught three of those times. The research revealed some dolphins found dead in the nets died of heart lesions consistent with overexertion; other animals showed evidence of healed heart and muscle lesions, suggesting that heart and muscle damage is routine. Stress may suppress their immune function and reproductive fertility and cause some pregnant dolphins to abort their fetuses. In addition, any chase lasting more than 30 minutes results in dolphin calves becoming separated from their mothers, an experience most calves can't survive. Researchers concluded that the impact to dolphins is greater than first thought—a situation that requires more research.
While the international standard for "dolphin-safe" does allow the use of the back-down technique if no dolphins were killed, the U.S. uses a more stringent standard, and no tuna that is caught using the dolphin-set method may be labeled as "dolphin-safe" in the U.S. market. However, even "dolphin-safe" tuna may be caught using methods, such as Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) or longlines, that have the potential to result in the incidental catch of other ocean animals, including sharks, sea turtles and seabirds, if effective mitigation measures are not in place.