Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2008

Are You Going to Eat That?

Part B: Identifying Sustainable Seafood

Certain types of fish, such as the Mahi-Mahi, show little or no evidence of threatened sustainability and are therefore recommended seafood choices. The Orange Roughy, widely overfished and harvested through destructive bottom trawling, is an example of a seafood choice to avoid in many locations.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch team defines sustainable seafood as "seafood from sources, either fished or farmed, that can exist over the long-term without compromising species' survival or the health of the surrounding ecosystem." The Seafood Watch team, as well as several other research and conservation groups, have each developed methods for evaluating the sustainability of seafood and provide consumers with recommendations for responsible seafood choices.

1. Visit the PBS FlipSide Science site on Healthy Oceans to watch the video Sustainable Seafood, which provides tips about responsible seafood consumption.

Checking In

Why should you choose smaller fish when eating seafood?

2. Watch this video interview to learn more about how the Seafood Watch guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California was developed and what the guidelines mean.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program

3. Examine the Seafood Watch guide provided by your teacher, or visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website to download and view a Seafood Watch guide for the region of the country where you live.

4. Look at two additional seafood guides for fish available in your geographic area, published by different conservation groups. Use the links below to view guides online.

  1. Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector
  2. FishChoice

Checking In

Compare and contrast the species you found on each seafood guide. Do the same species appear on all three?

Stop and Think

1: Why do you think the recommendation for a particular species might differ between guides?

5. Read the guidelines (Acrobat (PDF) 336kB Jun25 20) used by the Seafood Watch Program to make seafood recommendations.

6. Read this brief piece about Fish Mislabeling.


The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service maintains a website called Fish Watch that does not grade fish but provides consumers with a variety of information on the marine species and fishing practices associated with it to help them make an informed decision.

The FishWatch site also has useful information regarding fisheries management, fishing gear types, fisheries management stakeholders, trade statistics, and seafood health.

7. In groups, you will research the fish species assigned by your teacher. Go to the FishWatch website.

  • Use the "Find a Fish" search box in the middle of the page or click the "Show all Profiles" or "Search by Region" boxes below the search bar to find out more about your assigned fish species.

8. Prepare a short presentation of the information you find about your assigned species. Include the following information in your presentation:

  • species' name plus any vernacular (common names);
  • the species' role in the ecosystem;
  • ocean region(s) where the fish is caught;
  • trends in landings;
  • important dates relevant to the species' sustainability status; and
  • the species' current sustainability status.

9. As a class, rank the species of fish each group researched from most to least sustainable under current conditions. 

Stop and Think

2: Why might a restaurant or fish market sell certain fish under pseudonyms (false names)? Explain.

Optional Extensions

Video Why rely on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program?

I Want To Eat Fish Responsibly. But The Seafood Guides Are So Confusing!

PBS NewsHour video Can the seafood industry get Americans to eat local fish?

Herring Headache: The Big Obstacles To Eating Small Fish In California

Video Trash Fish Supper: Eating Lower on the Food Chain

That Snapper You Bought Could be a Fake

One Name, One Fish: Why Seafood Names Matter

PBS Frontline video Fish on My Plate