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School:Fish::?:iPhones
January 2, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

The Monterey Bay aquarium seafood watch has an app. Fish are a delicious, but problematic food source for humans. For those who've been cramming the Seafood Watch guide into their pockets when contemplating dining out or their next menu for decades, the next generation of fish eating awareness has arrived, in the form of a free mobile application.

No need to worry now if the guide is up to date, or if you've made the right "best alternative" choice in your fish eating purchase. Also, like its subject, the app now integrates a form of collective decision making, in that it allows for users to upload the location of "good" or "best alternative" fish to the database and as such disseminate it to others.
posted by Cold Lurkey (43 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly, they want Android users to die of mercury and PCB poisoning.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 PM on January 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, my first thought was "Oh, neat! I'll actually use this". Followed by "Oh. No android version. Drat".

Still, Neat.
posted by Stunt at 9:25 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, the pocket guides section opens just fine on Android.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:35 PM on January 2, 2011


What I need is a seafood watch guide that tells me what seafood actually tastes good. I've tried every fish I can get my hands on, and I've always walked away completely baffled that anyone would like it.

That doesn't go for crustaceans and mollusks, though. Them, I like. But the fish are safe.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:41 PM on January 2, 2011


For those of us with Palm WebOS phones (all three or four of us!) there's a Seafood Watch app, too. No collective decision making stuff, though.
posted by zsazsa at 9:49 PM on January 2, 2011


No seafood app on your phone? Might as well throw it away then. As far as I can tell, this ain't work a Duck's Fart.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:53 PM on January 2, 2011


I've tried every fish I can get my hands on, and I've always walked away completely baffled that anyone would like it.

I suggest you try different kinds of sashimi. Raw fish has a completely different flavor profile from cooked. I'm not a big fan of most cooked fish, but serve it up raw? Yum!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:59 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The funny thing about the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch -- which, by the way, I think is a wonderful idea -- is that the average visitor to the Aquarium could easily and without effort end up with four or five copies of their double-sided, double-Z-fold cheat sheet. You can also get them at lots of grocery stores' seafood counters -- at least in California.

And that's all well and good, because you know you're going to lose at least three of the four cheat sheets you get at the aquarium. They'll get tossed out with your credit card receipts and your validated parking stubs and by the time you get to that restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf that was highly recommended by the glossy-print dining guide distributed by the Visitor's Bureau, you'll have to ask for another cheat sheet before you can safely order your dinner.

All that ink and paper goes to waste to save a single threatened fish from reaching a plate.

Personally, I'm really glad there's now an app for that.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:15 PM on January 2, 2011


Clearly, they want Android users to die of mercury and PCB poisoning.

As far as I can tell their recommendations have nothing to do with how much mercury you'd be consuming and are based on sustainability of ocean habitats.

I'm interested to see this compared to mercury, DDT, and PCB information, if I'm correct.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:40 PM on January 2, 2011


Nevermind, I just noticed the red stars...
posted by Defenestrator at 10:44 PM on January 2, 2011


"Android app coming 2011."
posted by prinado at 10:53 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always been pretty intrigued by how we as consumers get pretty obsessed about what part of the cow our steak comes from, yet most of us are at a loss to even name the species we eat in our Filet-O-Fish or Gorton's fish sticks. You ask most people and you'll get an answer like "I'm not sure. North Atlantic Something?"

That would be like ordering a burger, but being unconcerned about the actual animal in it, just so long as it was some North American pedigree, like patties made of Raccoon, Opossum, Cow, and Squirrel.
posted by sourwookie at 11:27 PM on January 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, more and more of the frozen fish appears to be Pollack. And I can't visualize myself eating a chat show host.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:53 PM on January 2, 2011


like patties made of Raccoon, Opossum, Cow, and Squirrel

The McRib is back?
posted by benzenedream at 12:32 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Unfortunately the app does not work with older iPhones. The idea is a good one.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:44 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You ask most people and you'll get an answer like "I'm not sure. North Atlantic Something?"

Worse, you ask most waiters and waitresses, and that's what you get. That's why I have trouble using this app (which I downloaded like a year ago -- it's been out for awhile, right?) except at the grocery store. At a restaurant, you ask "oh, yum, rockfish, and is that black rockfish; from Oregon, Washington, or California; caught on a hook and line?" and there's pretty much no way you're going to get the answers you need to feel good about eating the fish. They'll come back after ten minutes of checking with the kitchen, and say "it's Alaskan." Hmm, Alaskan. Could still be on the "good alternative" list, as long as it was caught on a hook and line, otherwise, it's very bad. So do you continue your picky interrogation of the waitstaff? Your dining companion is already trying not to roll their eyes at you. No point; the kitchen clearly doesn't know. Me, I'd end up saying "okay, sure, I'll take the rockfish, thanks!" regardless, now suspecting I'm personally responsible for the devastation of ocean habitat. Long story short, that's why I love living in the Bay Area, where some small subset of groceries and restaurants will just include all of those details in the name of the fish.
posted by salvia at 12:48 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know this is a bit off-topic, but it brought to mind a question I had, how does one get a guide to fish consumption in a wet market, in China? Coming from America, where what you get on your plate does not resemble the actual fish, where do I start? Anyone?
posted by the_royal_we at 1:29 AM on January 3, 2011


the_royal_we : probably ask.metafilter...
posted by garlic at 1:39 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a great idea for an iPhone app. We love to eat fish, but it's hard to know what's endangered. Thanks for the link.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:46 AM on January 3, 2011


They need more aliases and fish types listed - I can see why they don't have an exhaustive list on the paper version but there's no size limit with the app. When going into Ranch 99 (our local Chinese supermarket) I can't find sustainability info on some fishes, e.g. milkfish and sheepshead fish.
posted by benzenedream at 2:06 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


where do I start? Anyone?
posted by the_royal_we at 1:29 AM on January 3 [+] [!]

The general guide is you want short-lived, smaller, fecund fish, the lower down the food chain the better.

For anybody, anywhere in the world, as a general (not flawless) guide, this means smaller (say not bigger than 30cm, tops) schooling fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, etc. Small schooling fish are good. Bottom feeders are general also good. Halibut, flathead, stuff like that. NOT stingrays. NOT shark. NOT big fish (>30cm) that eat other, smaller fish. Squid is also good. Oysters, mussels. Canned Atlantic salmon, good. Skipjack tuna is not too bad. Other types of tuna are very bad.

Also,personally I think, in China, for your health, avoid any aquaculture (probably prawns, basa, barramundi, nile perch, silver perch) unless you love the thought of faeces in your food.

posted by smoke at 2:48 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I forgot to close my tags, sorry.
posted by smoke at 3:07 AM on January 3, 2011


For anybody, anywhere in the world, as a general (not flawless) guide, this means smaller (say not bigger than 30cm, tops) schooling fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, etc.

Definitely not flawless. For example:
Perhaps the quintessential example of bullshit, bycatch refers to sea creatures caught by accident — except not really "by accident," since bycatch has been consciously built into contemporary fishing methods. Modern fishing tends to involve much technology and few fishers. This combination leads to massive catches with massive amounts of bycatch. Take shrimp, for example. The average shrimptrawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures overboard, dead or dying, as bycatch. (Endangered species amount to much of this bycatch.) Shrimp account for only 2 percent of global seafood by weight, but shrimp trawling accounts for 33 percent of global bycatch. We tend not to think about this because we tend not to know about it. What if there were labeling on our food letting us know how many animals were killed to bring our desired animal to our plate? So, with trawled shrimp from Indonesia, for example, the label might read: 26 pounds of other sea animals were killed and tossed back into the ocean for every 1 pound of this shrimp. [...]
If you're choosing a fish based on sustainability and biodiversity, the best fish to eat is pretty much none of the above, regardless of the list you're looking at (unless you're choosing farmed fish, in which case there are other things to worry about).
posted by pracowity at 4:16 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just at the tilapia.
posted by exogenous at 4:44 AM on January 3, 2011


Just EAT the tilapia.
posted by exogenous at 4:47 AM on January 3, 2011


>At a restaurant, you ask...
OK, as a Northern California native who hasn't yet gotten to eat abalone, I sympathize. However, this is crossing over into "giving the server a hard time" territory. You like the restaurant? You eat the food. It's the kind of thing you call and ask about in advance if you're concerned, not at tableside.
posted by rhizome at 4:58 AM on January 3, 2011


Just EAT the tilapia. --- and for a change of pace, there's also trout. Both are farm raised. Just make sure they don't come from China... unless you like the taste of melamine.
posted by crunchland at 5:21 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


@smoke: Wow, thank you! That's definitely a start! I'd say I feel like a "fish out of water here" but...

No, really, thank you. I just moved here, and am used to clearly-labeled American food. Picking my fish literally out of a barrel, I'm learning as fast as I can. I appreciate the input.
posted by the_royal_we at 5:31 AM on January 3, 2011


So do you continue your picky interrogation of the waitstaff?

No; you just don't eat seafood at a place like that.
posted by Miko at 6:07 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been using this website as a guide for a few years now and always wished I had the list with me when I'm out. I guess this app is the perfect thing. Except i don't have a smartphone.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:20 AM on January 3, 2011


Except i don't have a smartphone.

Neither do I, and stopped eating ocean-caught fish over a year ago, out of concern for the fishies. The idea of a mobile app of the guide seemed compelling enough, even if it wasn't universally available.
Perhaps when I upgrade phones I can start eating fish again I'll get an iPhone, just for the hailbut.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:10 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Monterey Bay aquarium seafood watch

Conflict of interest, much?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:12 AM on January 3, 2011


> The Monterey Bay aquarium seafood watch Conflict of interest, much?

If you buy an Executive Membership to the aquarium you can choose your meal from the displays and then eat them in a private dining room behind the shark tank.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:13 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're choosing a fish based on sustainability and biodiversity, the best fish to eat is pretty much none of the above

QMFMT. Sad but true. Modern commercial fishing practices just cause too much havoc for me to eat much fish at all that doesn't have some kind of "farmed for human consumption" indication on the label.
posted by hippybear at 8:16 AM on January 3, 2011


Modern fish farming practices just cause too much havoc for me to eat much fish at all that has some kind of "farmed for human consumption" indication on the label.

Seriously, seconding or thirding those above who pointed out that these seafood guides are frequently impossible to use in real life, where the method of catching the fish is often much more important than the type of fish caught. They also say some things that don't make any sense to me -- like halibut is fine, when halibut is a bottom fish that trawlers routinely destroy bottom habitat in the process of catching.
posted by rusty at 8:32 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are at least two other sustainable-seafood apps: FishPhone and Sustainable Fish Guide. The Monterey Bay one is my favorite, but each of the others lists some fish that the Monterey Bay app doesn't, and vice-versa.
posted by box at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2011


I was at the aquarium earlier this, errr last year. When you exits and head down Cannery Row there is a Bubba Gumps Shrimp Co. hard up against the exit. A couple of touts are at the entrance drumming up traffic. I stop and look at the menu. Ask the staff which of the options are Seawatch safe. Nothing. I already new that but wanted to see what they'd say. Yes I am a bit of a dick. Even my kids saw the irony of dumb people walking out of the aquarium and into the restaurant. Sometimes I worry about our society. I also hope the octopus and shark team up to slip their tanks and burn the place down in the middle of the night.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:08 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess the candlefish in my freezer is safe (but gross) to eat (since it's not on the list as safe or avoid.)
posted by vespabelle at 9:20 AM on January 3, 2011


these seafood guides are frequently impossible to use in real life, where the method of catching the fish is often much more important than the type of fish caught.

Another important critique is that catch method varies region by region, and often the same species of fish is being relatively sustainably harvested by small-scale fishing in one area, while being caught using destructive methods in another area. Many of New England's local small-scale fishermen get frustrated with the list, because in this area some of the few commercially viable species they can catch with small-boat, two-person operations are not recommended, when they are among the healthier local stocks and the practices used are more responsible.
posted by Miko at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Miko: I've noticed that the north atlantic is just about devoid of permissible fish on these lists, which is a shame. Fishery management in general is such a mess that lists of what to eat or not eat seem sort of beside the point. Up here in Maine we've got mackeral trawlers allowed to fish in waters that are closed to halibut fishermen, and they're predictably dragging up tons of halibut, which is being sold as lobster bait. It's a total clustercuss.
posted by rusty at 9:33 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Except i don't have a smartphone. --- For the luddites, there's always the PDF versions of the guide.
posted by crunchland at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2011


and by the time you get to that restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf that was highly recommended by the glossy-print dining guide distributed by the Visitor's Bureau

Actually, we don't distribute a dining guide at present (glossy or not), and haven't in years. We're looking at doing it for 2011, though!
posted by rednikki at 4:41 PM on January 3, 2011


However, this is crossing over into "giving the server a hard time" territory.

Yeah, I basically acknowledged it's on that borderline. I do think it's valid to ask for details once. That's kind of the point of this entire product, to get enough people to ask, so that restaurants start to tell you that they carry the good stuff. And in an ideal world, restaurants would train servers to know what they're serving.

In my many years of food service, it was interesting to see what you were required to learn in various restaurants. In my most recent, I learned the breweries and their cities for all the beers we carried. Why not the region and cannery for the fish?
posted by salvia at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2011


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