Ocean friendly seafood? There’s an app (or two) for that.

So you’re out on a date at your favorite little romantic seafood bistro, looking at the menu with whatever sanitized name the marketers have just invented for Patagonian toothfish or slimefish or whatever. With all the conflicting information out there, how does the average civilian choose what to order without pillaging the ocean?

Fortunately, technology is making it easier to answer this thorny question. The apps are pretty cool–since they’re not restricted to a piece of paper you fold up and stick in your wallet, there’s room for a bit more info on where the fish come from, the fishery and aquaculture practices used to produce them, and so on. Let’s look at two options, which I am using on the iPad 2:

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch

These guys are the pioneers, developing (as far as I know) the original seafood card. It’s been available for some time for iPhone and now is on iPad too. Advantages:

(1) It’s now available for Android. Not true of Fishphone (below). The Android app gets 4.5 out of 5 stars with 64 ratings at the time of this post.

(2) It’s dynamic. Unlike the card in your wallet or purse, the app can be regularly updated with new information on status of the fish stocks, changes in fishery practices or regulations, etc. It will be interesting to monitor how vigorously the app is  maintained and updated with new information. But this one does have a featured section on “what’s new”, listing additions since the last time you looked at it. This is very helpful.

(3) It’s easily navigated–and there are places worth going. There are regionally specific guides (like the old wallet cards), you can sort by color code–which fish to eat versus avoid– and for species that should be avoided there’s a helpful link to ocean-friendly alternatives. In general much more functionality than FishPhone.

(4) It’s networked. The really cool feature, in principle, is that users can search for nearby sources of sustainable seafood and add places where they’ve found it via “Project Fishmap“. I haven’t tried this yet and can’t really judge how useful it is in practice but it’s a great idea.

(5) It’s got pictures of fish! (unlike FishPhone). Being a marine biology geek this appeals to me.


FishPhone: Blue Ocean Institute’s seafood guide

Like the Seafood Watch guide, this one has long been available as a static dog-eared card in your wallet, as well as a texting service to your phone. Now FishPhone is available as an app for iPhone or iPad. Advantage:

(1) It’s served with wine. Well not literally of course. The major advantage of FishPhone relative to the otherwise superior Seafood Watch app is the wine pairings and recipes offered with the fish info (not for fish to be avoided obviously). Farmed US catfish, for example, is suggested to go well with Brancott Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (disclaimer: Brancott is a sponsor of the app). Presumably they’re not referring to fried catfish, which I personally would have paired with a PBR. There are also recipe suggestions for many of the species, which look very appetizing to me. I look forward to trying a few of them out.

Alas, both these apps have some significant downsides, as expected for newly released versions:

(1) They ain’t pretty. The iPad versions of both apps could use a serious face lift since they haven’t been optimized for the beautiful big screen — it’s essentially the iPhone app blown up, which you can view at 2X but  it’s quite grainy and not up to the experience that iPad users have very rapidly come to expect. Also, neither of them will rotate into landscape orientation on the iPad.

(2) It’s clunky. For FishPhone I couldn’t adjust the zoom level on the linked websites, meaning that when I went to the EDF site, I got huge letters and could see about 12% of the page. Ferget it. Seafood Watch was preferable because hyperlinks take you out of the app and open the link in Safari.

Nevertheless both apps work and are worlds better than the last-millennium cards. Probably the mobile phone versions will be more useful — I mean what kind of geek would whip out an iPad on an elegant dinner date?

Finally, these apps are USA-centric. Canadians might want to try SeaChoice.

No doubt some of you SeaMonsters out there have more experience with these apps than I do. Any comments or suggestions for our radio audience?


One Response to “Ocean friendly seafood? There’s an app (or two) for that.”

  1. […] wild-caught (not farmed) and harvested sustainably with “minimal” ecological impacts (yup, there’s an app for that), but those are the rare […]

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