Eco-friendly seafood

Mar 24, 2010 at 12:16 p.m. ET

Seafood can be a tricky subject when it comes to being green and eating a sustainable diet since some types of fish are certainly more eco-friendly than others. Here is our list of the best and worst seafood choices and tips to make sure you are getting the most eco-friendly fish at the market.

Eco-friendly salmon

Best and Worst Seafood to Eat

According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) there are three levels of seafood: eco-best, eco-ok and eco-worst.

Eco-best seafood: When choosing seafood, opt for fish on the eco-best list; they are safe for the environment as well as your body. Eco-best fish are either healthy, wild fish caught in a sustainable manner that do not harm any other marine life or they are farm raised fish that control the spread of disease, chemical use and pollution. These fish are suited to eat at least once per week without any health risks.

Eco-ok seafood: Types of seafood that are considered eco-ok have mixed records on their sustainability and should be eaten only in moderation. It is more difficult to discern how eco-OK seafood is raised, caught or farmed, and these types of fish may contain higher levels of mercury or other environmental chemicals.

Eco-worst seafood: As the name implies, eco-worst seafood should be avoided as much as possible. These fish typically come from overfished populations or poorly managed farms. They also usually contain very high levels of mercury or other environmental chemicals that are bad for the environment and your body.

Eco-conscious seafood categories

To help you make more eco-friendly choices when buying fish, here is a sampling of fish on the three lists. For more detailed information, please visit

Sampling of Eco-Best Seafood

  • European anchovies
  • United States baramundi
  • United States catfish
  • Farmed clams
  • Pacific halibut
  • United States Caribbean spiny lobster
  • United States mahimahi
  • Mussels
  • Farmed oysters
  • Alaskan and Canadian black cod
  • Wild Alaska salmon
  • Farmed bay scallops
  • United States tilapia
  • Farmed striped bass
  • United States albacore tuna

Sampling of Eco-Ok Seafood

  • Farmed caviar
  • Pacific cod
  • United States king crab
  • Pacific flounder
  • American/Maine lobster
  • United States and Canadian sea scallops
  • Black sea bass
  • United States farmed and wild shrimp
  • Yellowtail snapper
  • United States swordfish
  • Imported bigeye/yellowfin tuna

A Sampling of Eco-Worst Seafood

  • Chilean sea bass
  • Atlantic cod
  • Imported king crab
  • Atlantic flounder/sole
  • Grouper
  • Atlantic halibut
  • Imported mahimahi
  • Monkfish
  • Octopus
  • Farmed or Atlantic salmon
  • Maine sea urchin
  • Shark
  • Imported shrimp/prawns
  • Red snapper
  • Imported swordfish
  • Bluefin tuna

Know What You're Eating

Unfortunately, there are no standardized rules for labeling seafood in a grocery store or restaurant, so reading up on what seafood is eco-friendly and healthy is a beneficial move for you as a consumer. Many grocery stores and restaurants label whether fish is farmed or wild, but not where it comes from. You should have a general knowledge of which seafood is farmed, caught wild and where it originates.

For your health and to make the more eco-friendly choices, start by asking the fishmongers (when purchasing) or chefs (when eating out) if they know where the fish in the counter or on the menu comes from. If they don't know or don't want to tell you, consider another choice. You should also learn when your favorite types of fish are in season and their general prices. If you see a fish that is far cheaper than it should be, it is likely it is a lower substitute.

With so much information to quite literally digest when it comes to eating healthy, sustainable seafood, download the Environmental Defense Fund's Pocket Seafood Selector and keep it handy when you are meal planning and food shopping.

More on healthy fish choices and seafood safety