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Which Are the Healthiest and Most Sustainable Fish to Eat? Here Are Three Ways to Find Out

It used to be so easy to choose your fish, based on taste, availability and price. Not anymore.

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Salmon: Here, all three guides agree. DO eat wild Alaskan salmon. DO NOT eat farmed Atlantic salmon (it's even made the cut as one of Food and Water Watch's Dirty Dozen). The text from the Food and Water Watch guide sums up the problem with farmed Atlantic salmon quite well: "Farmed salmon may contain levels of PCB contamination that pose a health risk to adults and children. It may also be contaminated with pesticides and antibiotics. Farmed salmon are usually raised in cages in open waters. These cages allow free-flow of anything from the farm into the wild, and promote transfer of diseases, especially sea lice, from caged to wild fish. Fish waste, uneaten food and chemicals like pesticides and antibiotics used to treat for diseases are released directly into the ocean. About three pounds of wild fish is used in feed to grow just one pound of farmed salmon. Further adding to these concerns, when farmed salmon escape, they may interbreed with local populations, reducing the genetic fitness of the wild stock, or, if they are non-native, they can out-compete the native fish for food and habitat."

Monterey Bay Aquarium adds that Coho salmon farmed in tank systems gets a green rating. They address wild-caught salmon from the continental U.S. by giving a yellow rating to anything caught north of Cape Falcon in Oregon and a red rating to anything caught south of there. Blue Ocean Institute gives all wild-caught salmon from California, Oregon and Washington a yellow rating. Food and Water Watch does not address non-Alaskan wild salmon.

All in all, the three guides provide similar information, although sometimes they differ in ways that might impact an eater's decision of what to eat (you might be much more likely to eat canned tuna if you use the Blue Ocean Institute guide compared to Monterey Bay Aquarium). Despite Food and Water Watch's extra criteria in rating fish (looking at human health and socio-economic impact), often their recommendations are the same as the other two guides. In the end, your choice of which guide to use may come down to which guide you find to be the most user-friendly.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. .