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Technology Meets Sustainability: The Seafood Watch Smartphone App Is Revolutionizing The Way Consumers Make Responsible Purchasing Decisions

“Ah, I left my pocket guide at home!  I wonder if that fish is on the green list,” says a man to his wife as they walk through the frozen section at the grocery store.  “I’ll be able to tell you in less than a minute,” says his wife, typing quickly into her phone.  “I have a sustainable seafood guide right here!”  

This scenario is increasingly possible.  Customers have become aware of the need to eat fish that is healthy and rich in Omega 3s, but as a species, our desire to protect different species is finally beginning to match our ability to destroy them. Consumers at all levels- from those shopping in stores for a family dinner to those sitting down in restaurants to those making demands on what their institutions will serve- are trying to practice sustainable lifestyles. And as consumers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental concerns, technology is rising to meet the demand for knowledge.

 The Monterey Bay Aquarium has converted their popular Seafood Watch “pocket guide” into a free app for both Android and iPhone systems. Now it is easier than ever to check seafood sustainability and make the responsible purchasing choice. Simply open the app, type in the name of the fish or shellfish and discover the “Best Choice”, “Good Alternative”, or “Avoid” options!  Now everyone – businesses and consumers – have another tool to help protect our ocean resources by choosing seafood options that do not harm the environment.

A sustainable fishing app. Image from Flickr


Sustainable choices are an app away

For those of us who have used pocket guides in the past, we will greatly appreciate the versatility and ease of using the Seafood Watch app. No longer do we have to stuff multiple paper guides into our wallets, or sit there shuffling through them when we’re looking at our seafood options. Now we can simply pull out our phones, click on the app, type in the name of the seafood, and watch the guide appear. And for anyone who has never used a guide in the first place, the information will appear near-miraculous.

Seafood Watch uses an easily-interpreted “traffic light” color scheme to allow the user to find ocean-friendly fish and shellfish. Green defines “Best Choice”, yellow is a “Good Alternative” and red is a definite “Avoid”. These are categorized through the efforts of a careful and thorough team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This team researches government reports and journal articles, contacts fishery and fish farm experts, and develops an in-depth Seafood Watch Report that is reviewed by a panel of experts from the government, academia and the seafood industry. Finally, seafood recommendations are created from these reports. Whew!

The app now encompasses regional guides, the Sushi Guide, and the Super Green List. Project Fishmap is a neat feature that allows consumers to report and look up nearby locations where sustainable seafood is sold. This is a truly amazing aspect of the app: it gives people an extra step to pursue ocean-friendly options by providing a GPS location and name of businesses that sell seafood. There is even a host of delicious recipes.

It is, of course, not a perfect system. Fisheries are constantly evolving and it is tough to keep up with the most current information, even with a team of experts doing constant research. There are some species that the app doesn’t recognize. One of my favorites, the anchovy, comes up with a “sorry, no matches” screen. The options can also sometimes be difficult to understand. For example, if we search for “tuna” there are over 20 options that pop up, with all three colors dotting the screen.  “Shrimp” brings up 15 options, again with the traffic light rainbow. Various other species do the same.

This is where the user must be smart. We must ask what kind of tuna is it, where it comes from, and how is it caught. This information is often difficult to get. Seafood Watch is not meant to be a definitive cure-all for sourcing sustainable seafood. It is a guide, a way to put the user on the right path to making informed choices. The mission of Seafood Watch is to empower consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans.

The best part of the app (in my opinion) – your phone can download the most up-to-date information. As soon as Seafood Watch publishes new information, the app reflects it. It’s great to know that you always have access the most current information available.  There are few comprehensive seafood guides that are as thorough as Seafood Watch.

It is our responsibility

Humans have relied on food from the oceans for thousands of years. Within the last 50 years new technology has allowed us to fish deeper, faster, in greater numbers, and with more efficiency. As a result, we have depleted seafood populations in many places of the world.

We are responsible for taking action and opting for sustainable options. Seafood distributors, retailers, restaurants and consumers play a crucial role in the conservation of our ocean resources. It is our choices that make the difference – by supporting fisheries and farms that use environmentally friendly practices, we are protecting the future of our oceans. Take responsibility and choose Pucci Foods as your seafood distributor.

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