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This month, I ventured to ask the man behind the counter at a Whole Foods Market what kind of shrimp he was selling. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think they’re just normal shrimp.” I glanced at the sustainable seafood guide on my phone. There were 80 entries for shrimp, none of them listed “normal.”
What about the cod? Was it Atlantic or Pacific? Atlantic. How was it caught? I asked. “I’m not sure,” he said, looking doubtfully at a creamy fish slab. “With nets, I think. Not with harpoons.”
The shrimp had a blue sticker shaped like a fish on it, which appeared to be some type of official approval. Plus, they were on sale. I bought half a pound.
I was using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, one of a handful of sustainable seafood guides which base their recommendations of sustainable seafood on a range of factors, including where the fish came from, how it was caught or farmed and how the local environment was affected. Spend an hour trying to make sense of these guides, and you may feel more confused than when you started — and guilty about putting an unsuspecting grocery employee on the spot.