Seafood Watch Overview & History

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program is a globally respected source of science-based recommen­dations for sustainable seafood from wild-caught and farmed sources. The recommendations are developed through a process driven by the program’s vision of sustainable seafood: seafood from sources that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of affected ecosystems. Based on rigorous criteria, assessments indicate which seafood sold on the North American market are a Best Choice or  Good Alternative, and which ones to Avoid.

Seafood Watch recommendations empower consumers and businesses to make choices for a healthy ocean, helping support diverse marine ecosystems for the future. The program also raises awareness through its printable guides, website, mobile app, and partnerships with businesses, zoos, aquariums, culinary leaders and conservation organizations.

Increasingly, Seafood Watch is working on a global scale – taking a markets-based approach that harnesses the purchasing power of businesses large and small in order to shift fishing and aquaculture practices around the world in more sustainable directions.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program started in 1999, as an outgrowth of a successful special exhibition, “Fishing for Solutions.” After learning many visitors were inspired by the exhibit, the Aquarium started the program to develop tools that could help people change their seafood buying habits.

Seafood Watch has grown to be one of the most recognized and respected sources of science-based information for consumers, chefs and business professionals who want to make seafood choices that support a healthy ocean and healthy fishing communities.

Key Program Elements

  • Developing science-based, peer-reviewed seafood recommendations that reflect a vision of an ocean capable of supporting healthy ecosystems and producing seafood to meet human needs for generations to come.
  • Educating the public by raising consumer awareness about sustainable seafood issues and encouraging people to ask for sustainable seafood whenever they shop for seafood.
  • Working with leading U.S. seafood buyers, distributors, retailers, food service and chefs to develop and execute sustainable seafood commitments that promote more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and create incentives for less sustainable ones to improve.
  • Cultivating a network of zoos, aquariums, science museums, nature centers and other non-profit conservation partners to extend the geographic reach of the Seafood Watch program.
  • Providing information and tools that help businesses and individuals assess the seafood they buy.

Recommendation Rating System

  • Best Choice (green) – Buy first; they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.
  • Good Alternative (yellow) – Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or farmed.
  • Avoid (red) – Don’t buy; these items are overfished, or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Finding & Using Recommendations

The website and app (available for iOS and Android) offer a searchable database of all seafood recommendations. The website includes the full reports and associated scientific background for each recommendation. (Updated monthly)

Printed consumer guides are available through the Monterey Bay Aquarium and at Seafood Watch Partner locations around the country. The PDF version can be downloaded and printed from a personal computer and hard-stock versions (in quantity) are available for purchase directly from Seafood Watch. (Updated twice a year)