On a recent sunny afternoon, I decided to check out a sustainable seafood restaurant in the colorful Mission district of San Francisco called Weird Fish for lunch after it was recommended by a couple of colleagues. The place is perfect for pescaterians as it only serves fish and vegetarian food and no meat of any kind. No more checking to see if the Clam Chowder has bacon in it.
I ordered their blackened Catfish but the chef made a mistake and sent the “catch of the day” instead. The hostess however caught his mistake and explained to me that it was Cod and not Catfish. She graciously offered me an extra side to compensate for the mistake. I was fine with trying their catch of the day as I had every intention of returning to try the blackened Catfish if the food was half as good as the reviews on Yelp implied.
While this incident at Weird Fish was an honest mistake, I recollect reading an article more than two years ago about a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that found in many cases consumers were not getting what they paid for when it comes to seafood. Not only are consumers poorly informed about the seafood they are eating, often the restaurant owners themselves are fooled into thinking they are serving one type of fish when in reality it is a similar looking but different fish.
Safe Seafood by Tobin Fisher is a 99 cent app that helps you make the right seafood choices both for the health of your body as well as the health of the planet. The app is very simple with two sections. The first section lists seafood alphabetically by name, while the second section called “Good to Bad” lists seafood under three categories termed Enjoy! (green), Eat in moderation (orange) and Avoid (red). This is a format very similar to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program Pocket Guide. Selecting a fish (I am going to use fish and seafood interchangeably) opens up a new screen as shown above that provides additional information about the fish and a link to Wikipedia to learn more.
I got a chance to talk to Safe Seafood’s creator Tobin Fisher yesterday and he told me that it took him much longer to put together the content for the app than to program the app. He also mentioned that he used 9 different sources to identify which seafood would qualify for his app. If a particular fish was categorized under “Best Choices” by the Seafood Watch Program but was believed to have a high amount of contaminants according to the Environmental Defense Fund, he would not give it the green Enjoy! classification.
As you will notice, apart from listing the name of the fish, the app also has additional information in brackets that either points to the geographical origins of the fish, the production method (farmed or wild) and even the harvest method (trawl-caught, pole caught, longline, etc). So while a troll/pole caught Albacore Tuna is classified as “Enjoy!”, the same Albacore Tuna is categorized as “Avoid” if the fishing method used was longline due to the impact of longline fishing on other species of marine life.
According to a November 2006 article in Science magazine by Erik Stokstad, a group of ecologists project that all commercial fish and seafood species will collapse by 2048. Overfishing, pollution and wasteful fishing practices are decimating fish populations in our oceans. An app that helps consumers make better choices about the seafood they are eating is worth every penny, especially considering that 10% of the proceeds from the sale of this app will be donated to the Environmental Defense Fund.
I highly recommend checking out Safe Seafood as a quick and fun way to get a crash course in seafood and learning a little about the environment impact of different fishing methods in the process.