New Seafood Calculator Lists Best Choices for Healthy Oceans, People

Oct 03, 2014

Seafood Watch

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has published an online shopping tool and seafood calculator that helps people buy seafood lower in mercury and higher in omega-3 fatty acids – paired with information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program that tells you whether it was caught or farmed in ways that promote healthy oceans.

The new interactive tools incorporate data from the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, which in June urged pregnant and nursing women to increase their fish consumption to eight to 12 ounces of seafood per week and encouraged young children to eat fish twice a week. In addition, the calculator contains more detailed information for consumers than the federal health guidance provides.

Seafood Watch Ratings Add New Dimension to Seafood Health Guides

It also adds a feature not present in other health guides to seafood: complete rankings from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s respected Seafood Watch program identifying whether each item is a Best Choice, Good Alternative or one to Avoid because of its environmental impacts on ocean ecosystems.

The top choices identified by the new Seafood Calculator include wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout and Atlantic mackerel. All are high in omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury and carry a Seafood Watch “Best Choice” ranking.

“Over the past decade, the evidence has grown that seafood is an important part of a healthy diet, particularly for pregnant women and people with heart disease,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst and program leader in creating the new seafood calculator. “The key is to select the healthiest fish and shellfish. We’ve identified those species with the highest omega-3 concentrations and low mercury. The addition of Seafood Watch sustainability ratings allows us to also highlight seafood choices that come from well managed fisheries.”

“It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the information available about seafood,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, director of the aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. “This new tool from the Environmental Working Group cuts through the confusion and makes it much easier to choose the seafood that’s best for people, and best for the health of the oceans.”

Federal Guidelines Recommend More Seafood, Especially for High-Risk Populations

Federal guidelines recommend that Americans make seafood a routine part of their diets, even during pregnancy. High-risk populations—pregnant women, children and people with heart disease—are likely to benefit from eating more seafood, Lunder said, when they select varieties with the least mercury and optimum omega-3 content.

The tool incorporates data on the mercury content of commercial seafood gathered by Stony Brook University and the Environmental Defense Fund. Omega-3 concentrations in fish are drawn from the USDA Nutrient database. EWG’s recommendations are based on the best available science, and will be updated in the future if scientific studies provide new evidence on the benefits and drawbacks of seafood consumption, particularly the impact of environmental pollutants in fish and shellfish.

The new EWG Seafood Calculator determines how much fish or shellfish an individual can safely eat each week, based on age, weight, pregnancy status and heart health. It offers personalized recommendations for more than 80 species – including the corresponding Seafood Watch ranking regarding which fish to eat, which to approach with caution and which to avoid.

The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans. In October, the aquarium celebrates its 30th anniversary, and the 15th anniversary of its Seafood Watch program.

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.