Sustainable Seafood in Summertime

Salmon leaping at Willamette Falls, Oregon City, OR

Salmon leaping at Willamette Falls, Oregon City, OR

By Catherine Haug, July 13, 2014

Fish has long been my favorite food (beginning with lutefisk when I was a toddler). Growing up here in the Flathead, land-locked Kokanee salmon is another favorite, along with native cutthroat trout and other native trout. As native fish, these are the most sustainable we can get here in the NW Montana

(NOTE: lake trout is not native, and they are out-competing our native bull trout, which to me is very very sad, but that’s another article).

If you are not a fisherman, what are your best sustainable (and healthful) fish and seafood you can buy in the store?

  • If your main goal is healthful fish, definitely avoid farmed fish, as they are not fed their natural diet and may carry disease. Many are treated with antibiotics in their feed, and are likely exposed to PCBs;
  • If sustainable seafood is your main goal, the Center for Food Safety (1) provides guidelines and recommendations; read on.

See also my 2016 posting: Dietary fish & seafood: Which are/are not healthful.

Best Sustainable Summer Seafood

Because we import fish from different climates and places, we forget that fisheries are seasonal. For example, wild winter flounder is a winter fish; river-run wild salmon is a summer fish. So to be most sustainable, the seafood fishery should be in season.

If you want sustainable AND healthful,  the Center for Food Safety provides the following five tips (1), which are the basis of their seafood recommendations:

  1. Choose local seafood if possible, and always choose domestic over imported;
  2. Choose wild;
  3. If it’s farmed, choose seafood that is from the U.S., especially in low- or no- output, recirculating systems; however, if you want to avoid antibiotics and/or PCBs in your fish, avoid farmed fish.
  4. Favor fish caught by hook and line, handline, troll (not to be confused with “trawl” fishing, which can be very destructive), jig or speargun;
  5. Avoid fish that are high in mercury, PCBs or farmed fish that are given antibiotics (2).

For their rationale behind their recommendations, see their article (1).

Recommended Seafood from West Coast Fisheries

The following are in alphabetical order:

  • Abalone (farmed)
  • Albacore Tuna (troll, pole)
  • Dungeness Crab
  • King Salmon from Alaska (pole, troll)
  • Oregon Pink Shrimp
  • Pacific Cod (hook & line, longline & trap)
  • Pacific Halibut
  • Rainbow Trout (farmed)
  • Sablefish, a.k.a Black Cod or Butterfish (Alaska wild)
  • Salmon (Alaska wild)
  • Sardines, Pacific (US wild-caught)
  • Shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams; farmed)
  • Striped Bass, a.k.a Rockfish (hook & line or farmed)
  • White Seabass (hook & line)

Recommended Seafood from East Coast Fisheries

The following are in alphabetical order:

  • Mahi Mahi (troll, pole)
  • Shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams; farmed)
  • Snapper (preferably Yellowtail)
  • Stone Crab
  • Striped Bass, a.k.a Rockfish (hook & line or farmed)
  • Swordfish (harpoon, troll, pole)
  • Yellowfin Tuna (troll, pole)

Fish to Avoid

The following are found in west and east coast fisheries unless noted otherwise:

  • Orange Roughy
  • Atlantic (farmed) Salmon
  • Shark
  • Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
  • Atlantic Cod (East coat fisheries)


  1. Center for Food Safety, Best Sustainable Summer Seafood (
  2. Food and Water Watch  (

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