Dial-a-fish for the best seafood choice

Living on Earth
When you're in a restaurant or a grocery store, thinking about fish for supper, you might also want to think about what could be in the fish—maybe mercury, perhaps PCBs? Or maybe the fishery is floundering. Some fish are good—some not—but can you remember which fish is which? Now you don't have to—you can let your fingers do the fishing, as "Living on Earth's" Ashley Ahearn learned when she dialed-a-fish at her local supermarket.

Carl Safina, head of the Blue Ocean Institute says, " You simply send a text message with the word 'fish' and the name of the fish that you are interested in and virtually instantly, you will get a beep on your phone and you will see whether you should tell the waiter that that's what you want to eat or you should tell the guy behind the counter or the woman behind the counter that that's what you want to buy."

Safina and his team have put together a database that rates each fish based on pollution exposure, fishing practices, population levels, even how long it takes that species to reproduce. But beyond the rating system, Carl has some basic rules of thumb for anyone buying fish, even if they don't have text messaging on their phone.

"Farmed shellfish is generally very good and then the smaller the fish is, the better it's likely to be. The bigger the fish, the more fished out it probably is and the more you might have a concern about mercury or other pollutants. But there are some surprises. For instance, the swordfish have come back up and they're doing much better than they were a decade ago."

Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth.

PRI's coverage of social entrepreneurship is supported by the Skoll Foundation.

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