Be a Seafood Lover

Many of the fishing practices being used around the world today are having negative effects on our lakes, oceans and wildlife. As a seafood lover, you can help to curb the negative effects of habitat damage, overfishing, bycatch and poor aquaculture practices by making educated decisions the next time you make a seafood purchase. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program has recognized the following species of fish and shellfish as being good choices for consumption (based on stock abundance, fishing techniques used and aquaculture practices).

Download the Seafood Watch pocket guide (PDF)

Fish

Catfish (US farmed)

Catfish get their name from the oversized barbels on their faces - a whisker-like sensor used to navigate the floor of mucky water bodies. This scaleless fish is popular partly because of its relatively small amount of bones where the good meat is, and its flavor is mild. Catfish is great poached, baked or fried. We recommend putting a cajun twist on it - make it hot and spicy!

Cod: Pacific (Alaska longline)

Although most commonly used in fish sticks and processed frozen fish foods, the Pacific cod is a great filet when fresh-caught and baked in a parchment pouch. The fish has flaky white flesh and a mild, buttery flavor. It's also a very popular fish for making fish 'n' chips.

Halibut: Pacific

The best halibut is small halibut (~10 pounds), although it is caught large (sometimes more than 400 pounds) by many in the sport fishing industry. This right-eye flounder is the largest of all flat fish species. It's born with it's eyes on opposite sides of it's head and at six months, it's one eye will slowly move to the other side of its head, allowing it to see what's above it as it lays flat on the ocean floor. Halibut has a white flesh, with large, firm flakes. Its "cheeks" are revered as a delicacy and they taste fantastic with or without seasoning.

Pollock (Alaska wild) + 

A saltwater fish that is a member of the cod family and sometimes referred to as bigeye pollock or walleye pollock. It has a slender body that is olive green to brownish in color on its back and its sides are silvery. Its flesh is firm and white which flakes nice when cooked. The Alaska Pollock should not be confused with the Atlantic Pollock, which is more oily with a darker flesh that has a fishier taste. Alaska Pollock is great for baking, broiling, sautéing, frying, steaming, or poaching. It is the most widely used fish in the fast food market where it is used to make fish n' chip fillets, fish patties for sandwiches, and ground fish products. Alaska Pollock fillets are also delicious enough to be served in a nice restaurant. A large quantity of the Alaska Pollock that is harvested today is the used to make surimi, which is imitation seafood.

Rockfish: Black (CA, OR) 

This hard fighting fish is know for its tender, flaky, white filets that make for a delightful meal when baked in parchment paper, pan fried with onions and garlic, or simply grilled over hot coals. Black Rockfish are also sold as black bass, black rock cod, sea bass, black snapper. There are more than 70 species of rockfish living off the Pacific coast. Many of the rockfish species are susceptible to overfishing because the grow slowly, mature late and are often caught before they've had a chance to reproduce. Black Rockfish have stronger populations than other rockfish varieties, so they get our recommendation. Look for "hook-and-line caught" from either California, Oregon or Washington.

Salmon (Alaska wild)

Salmon are an anadromous fish species, meaning they are born in fresh water, but migrate to saltwater to mature and return to fresh water to reproduce. As one of the most popular fish to eat, salmon has a reputation for being a healthy and nutritious source of protein and heart-healthy oils. Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, are present in all five salmon species, and most abundant in Chinook, Coho and Sockeye. Salmon is typically grilled or baked, but can also make a great addition to a seafood chowder or an appetizer dip. Oh, and don't forget about the wonders of smoked salmon - delicious! 

Chinook salmon (King)

Also called king salmon, this is the largest of the five salmon species. Chinook can grown up to five feet in length, forming an unmistakably massive body in fully grown adults. Chinook salmon have a rich, red-orange flesh that is high in oil content.

Coho salmon (Silver)

Coho has a bright red flesh color, but not a deep of a red as sockeye. It's oil content is just lower than sockeye and chinook, and the flesh is more meaty than delicate. Like Chum and Chinook, Coho turn a vivid red on their sides upon returning to spawn. Most coho salmon is wild caught, although they are farmed, as well. 

Chum salmon (Dog/Keta)

Chum salmon have a pale meat color and lower levels of healthy oils than the other salmon species. Their bodies are a steel, gray-blue color, which turns slightly red on the sides when they return to spawn after spending up to six years out at sea. 

Pink salmon

Pink salmon are the smallest of the true salmon. It's commonly canned, but is also sold fresh and frozen. It's flesh is a pale pink with lower oil content than the richer Chinook and Sockeye species. It also has relatively weak homing instincts and as a result does not always return to spawn in the exact location where it was born.

Sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon is high in oil content, with the reddest flesh of any salmon. It has rich, meaty flesh and unmistakable deep color in its filets. Many consider sockeye to be the best tasting and most nutritious of the five salmon species. One type, kokanee, is actually landlocked and spends its entire life in fresh water. When sockeye are spawning, the heads of the males transform to a bright green and their fins a vibrant red. Meanwhile, the females scale tones become pale. 

Sardines and Herring

This small, saltwater fish is consumed young while its bones are soft and edible, found in the Mediterranean (Sardines), Pacific and Altantic oceans (Herring). The sardine is a fast swimming silver dart, and has a dark, rich flavored filet. Sardines are typically found canned in olive oil, soy oil or water - but they're also great fresh, although sometimes hard to find. Sardines are popular as an appetizer on crackers, and are a key ingredient to making a good Caesar dressing.

Sturgeon, Caviar (farmed) 

This anadromous fish is large and in charge - adults averaging 100-200 pounds in weight, the record setters weighing up to a ton and growing longer than 15 feet. The eggs, or "roe," of the sturgeon is considered to be "true caviar" and is highly desired for fine cuisine. The sturgeon has a delicately flavored, but firm flesh - rich, and high in fat. Although the majority of U.S.-caught sturgeon is smoked, it is available fresh - but that can be hard to find.

Tilapia (US farmed) 

This warm water fish is picky about temperature. You probably won't find it swimming in water colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, nor will you find big ones - they they usually only grown to be 3 to 4 pounds in the wild waters. Because the grow to adulthood quickly, and reproduce just the same - they became an popular (and relatively environmentally sound) fish to farm. Most Tilapia species' meat is white, firm in texture and quite sweet in flavor - very similar to catfish. Most traditional cooking methods compliment this fish (i.e., baking, broiling, grilling, frying, poaching, or steaming).

Trout: Rainbow (farmed) 

Populations of lake trout in many areas of the U.S. have been overfished. Farmed rainbow trout are recognized as being the best choice for purchasing trout. The standards for farming this particular species have improved over the years, and today many of these farms are recognized by many environmental organizations as being an ecologically sound - not to mention many are certified by a third party system. Most commercially raised Rainbow trout weigh around 8 ounces. We recommend the traditional trout cooking method: fried in a cast iron skillet.

Tuna: Albacore (US, BC troll/pole) 

The North Atlantic stocks of this tuna species are severely declined, but Pacific and South Pacific have shown to be abundant. Albacore tuna that is very flavorful and has the lightest colored flesh of all the different species of tuna. It is generally more expensive than other varieties and the canned version is often called "white tuna." The meat is tender and flaky when cooked and like all tuna, it is fairly high in fat content.

Shellfish and Crustaceans

Abalone (farmed)

This large marine snail has a very mild flavor, and becomes hard and rubbery when overcooked, making it very similar in taste and texture to calamari (squid). The Abalone's large oval shell has a bluish, iridescent nacre (mother-of-pearl) lining - which has led to its popularity in jewelry and other ornamental works. We recommend abalone pan seared, breaded and fried or in a creamy seafood chowder. Think garlic, lemon and parsley!

Clams (farmed) 

When picking out shellfish, make sure they're closed when you purchase them and only open the ones that open when you cook them. Also, eat them within a few days of purchasing them - fresh shellfish is delicious!

Manila Clams

Manilas are a sweet, delicate clams - popular for being easy to open, easy to prepare and very versatile. Try them as an appetizer - steamed with herbs, wine and garlic. They are also great chopped in chowders or breaded and fried.

Pacific Razor Clams

To truly enjoy these clams, they must be freshly caught. Most clam diggers would agree that the best way to eat them is to bread and fry them in butter or oil for just a minute of two on each side (be careful not to overcook them or they'll become very chewy). Like most shellfish they have the savory flavor of the sea, with a little hint of sweetness. 

Butter Clams

This Puget Sound hard-shell clam is small, but sweet and rich (as its name suggests). Butter clams average about 4 inches in length and range from 1 to 2 inches in height, with oval or oblong shells. These are a classic clam to steam up with white wine, citrus and garlic.

Crab: Dungeness

This crab was named after the small town of Dungeness on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, east of Port Angeles. Dungeness crab is packed with a delicate and rich meat. Crab lovers tend to simply boil the crab for about 15 minutes and then crack the exoskeleton and dip the meat in butter. The meat is a fantastic addition to thick chowders with carrots, onions, celery and potatoes. Crab cakes and crab dips are also a favorite among crab enthusiasts. If you've never had crab, try a little and wait a few minutes before eating more - shellfish allergies are not uncommon.

Lobster: Spiny (US)

Spiny lobsters have a firm and rich meat, mostly from the tail, which accounts for more than one third of its total weight. The lobsters live in tropical and subtropical waters, and the best source is southern California and Mexico - as recommended by the Marine Stewardship Council. Boil the tail and dip the meat in butter, or add try concocting a rich and creamy lobster bisque.

Mussels (farmed)

Approximately 90 percent of the mussels consumed worldwide are farmed. The good thing about mussel, clam and oyster farms is that they do not require fish feed or fish oils (two of the worst components to other forms of aquaculture). Most of these bivalves actually filter the water as the feed, making them a more sustainable form of seafood farming. We recommend the following...

Mediterranean Mussels

These are a classic originally from the Mediterranean Sea, now farmed all around the world. They're flavor can be bold and rich, with a hint of the briny flavor of the sea. Try them steamed with garlic, a sweet white wine and a splash of orange juice. These mussels open early, so cook them a little longer than after they open, or they'll be undercooked.

Blue Mussels

Ironically, blue mussels have more of a brown-to-black colored shell - but they're name could imply their mood rather than their color… Who knows? Either way, blue mussels are great for steaming and chopping into chowders. They're ready to eat as soon as they open, so no need to wait - dig in!

Oysters

Aphrodisiac? We'll let you decide. When served raw on the half shell, they're certainly not for everyone. In fact, many people find them to be quite the opposite of an aphrodisiac. If you haven't had oysters, you really must try them once. If you can't bare the idea of eating them raw, try grilling them and slurping them off the half shell cooked. Spicy sauces help to mask any flavor that might not agree with your taste buds, although, oyster lover purists say you must eat them raw and unseasoned. We'll let you decide. We recommend the following… 

Pacific Oysters

This a fantastic grilling oyster - just shuck and grill them over a big bed of hot coals. We recommend topping them with caramelized onions and a pinch of fresh cracked pepper, or just eat them raw from the sea.

Olympia Oysters

This Pacific native grows from Mexico clear up to Alaska, but it gained its name in Olympia, where it was first harvested on an industrial scale.  Today, "The mighty Oly" as shellfish farmers call them, are a small but highly favored oyster for a true raw, half-shell experience. This is a great oyster for a "first timer," as they're the smallest.

Kumamoto

This oyster was brought to the Pacific Coast of the U.S. from Kumamoto Bay, located on Japan's southernmost island, Kyushu. These little Kumas are just slightly larger than the tiny Olympia Oysters, and they have a tan meat that is distinctly firm and crisp. Some oyster lovers find them to be fruity, in addition to their briny flavor. If you want a nice half-shell shooter, try these with just a squeeze of lime. 

Totten Virginica

The Totten Virginicas taste clean and smooth as far as oysters go. They have a sweet and mineral-rich finish, and are a particularly good source of zinc, Vitamin D + B12, Iron, Copper, Manganese, Selenium and of course protein. We recommend enjoying them served on the half-shell, chilled. If you don't care for the flavor of raw oysters by itself, try crumbling a little cheese over the top and finish it off with a dash of Tabasco - Yum! 

Scallops: Bay (farmed)

Bay scallops are small, bivalve mollusks - and the only in the world known to migrate by swimming. Inside of their popular-to-collect shells lives a white, delicate muscle that is a sweet, rich delicacy among cultures around the world. Scallops require just a brief cook time, as they become rubbery if overcooked. Try them sautéed in butter, added to a seafood chowder or wrap them with a dry-cured ham, such as prosciutto.

Pink Shrimp (OR) and Spot Prawns (BC)

Pacific coast spot prawns and pink shrimp are recommended as the healthiest and most environmentally safe varieties of small crustacean to consume. Effective management of the stocks has prevented overfishing of the shrimp, and also by-catch related with shrimp trawling. Generally, cold-water shrimp are smaller than their warm-water counterparts, and they change color when cooked - so, don't be confused when your 'pink' shrimp isn't pink until you cook it. The flesh of the tail is firm and fresh tasting, and not rich like it's larger crustacean relatives.