Right Bites: Shedd's Guide to Sustainable Seafood

February 26, 2008 10:44:26 AM PST
Now that Lent is here, many of us are serving more fish at home or ordering it in restaurants. You can make more responsible choices by following guidelines from the Shedd Aquarium. Certain types of fish are better environmental choices than others because the method of catching or farming them assures the long-term survival of the oceans, the Great Lakes and their inhabitants. The guidelines are spelled out in Shedd's Right Bite cards that are part of a program to educate consumers about seafood that is not only good to eat but good for our oceans and lakes too. For the first time, the Shedd's Right Bite cards include new research to protect the fish swimming close to home in the Great Lakes. The Right Bite cards feature sustainable fish options from the majestic waters of the Midwest to help consumers make the most environmentally-informed decisions possible, protecting fisheries both near and far.

"Shedd has long been a leader in Great Lakes conservation through our Listen to Your Lakes initiative, and we're excited to infuse our Right Bite program with the same energy and local connection to encourage people to protect the natural, but limited waters in our own backyard," said Michelle Jost, Conservation Programs Manager at Shedd Aquarium. "Fish and seafood are an important part of a healthy diet. Shedd encourages fish lovers to eat the right kind of fish and seafood, while still preserving marine life in international and now local waters."

The new Right Bite card handily summarizes the wealth of unprecedented research into a compact, easy-to-use guide, which organizes species of fish by the sustainability of their wild populations and method of capture. Species are organized by color into three groups: 'Best Choices,' 'Good Alternatives' and 'Avoid.' Species in the 'Best Choices' group represent fish whose populations are the most sustainable, while species grouped into the 'Avoid' category are in danger of collapsing.

Fish fry enthusiasts will be happy to learn that yellow perch from Lake Erie are listed in the 'Best Choices' category thanks to the eco-friendly trapping methods and an effective population management strategy. Another local favorite, lake whitefish that are trap-net caught, also ranks as one of the 'Best Choices' on the card due to an effective management plan and the species well-known natural resistance to environmental changes. The good news about the sustainability of some local favorites are in stark contrast to lake trout, which are found mostly in Lakes Michigan and Huron and are now in the 'Avoid' category of the Right Bite card. Lake trout populations have dwindled recently due to a loss of habitat, overfishing and predation by the invasive sea lamprey. Most lake trout found in the Great Lakes today are the result of an artificial fisheries management strategy known as "stocking." Consumers are advised to avoid lake trout to allow the local fish to repopulate.

Just in time for traditional and popular "Friday Night Fish Fry" events during the Lenten season, the updated Right Bite card provides Midwestern communities with the best local fish options that make for great meals and even greater benefits for our Great Lakes.

In early 2006, Shedd Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium teamed up to collaborate with commercial fishery experts from the Midwest and the rest of the Great Lakes region. This working group provided a species list, which was given to a fisheries biologist from Northwestern University for further study. This unprecedented, comprehensive analysis resulted in a greater understanding of the major commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes and a new Right Bite wallet card.

To download the final report from the analysis of the Great Lakes fisheries or to download the new Right Bite card, go to www.sheddaquarium.org/Right_Bite_in_the_Great_Lakes.html. The card can also be obtained free of charge at Shedd Aquarium or at participating restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Chicagoland area.

About Shedd's Listen to Your Lakes

Listen to Your Lakes, Shedd's Great Lakes conservation initiative, is dedicated to protecting the Great Lakes and their nearly 11,000 miles of shoreline from growing threats. From beach sweeps to blogs, Shedd continues to offer diverse opportunities for the public to learn about and get involved in Great Lakes conservation. Visit www.listentoyourlakes.org for more information.

Right Bite Restaurants

More than two-thirds of the seafood consumed in the United States is ordered from restaurant menus. No one knows or cares about food more than chefs. It's no surprise, then, that chefs are among the most passionate and concerned citizens when it comes to sustainable seafood. Right Bite is proud to partner with several Chicago-area restaurants to raise awareness about seafood issues while celebrating the delicious sustainable options available in our marketplace.

Right Bite restaurants receive twice-yearly staff training on seafood issues provided by Shedd experts. The restaurants pledge to offer at least one sustainable seafood dish at all times and, if applicable, to permanently remove at least one unsustainable choice from their menus.

  • 312 Chicago
  • Carnivale
  • NaHa
  • Oceanique
  • Parkers' Ocean Grill
  • Shaw's Crab House - Chicago
  • Shaw's Crab House - Schaumburg
  • Soundings Restaurant

  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Barramundi (US farmed)
  • Catfish (US farmed)
  • Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed)
  • Cod (Alaska longline)+
  • Crab: Dungeness, Stone
  • Halibut (Pacific)+
  • Lake Whitefish (trap net)*
  • Lobster: Spiny (US)
  • Pollock (Alaska wild)+
  • Sablefish/Black Cod/Butterfish (Alaska+, BC)
  • Salmon (Alaska wild)+
  • Sardines/Atlantic Herring
  • Scallops: Bay (farmed)
  • Shrimp: Pink (Oregon wild)+
  • Striped Bass (farmed or wild)*
  • Sturgeon, Caviar (farmed)
  • Tilapia (US farmed)
  • Trout: Rainbow (farmed)
  • Tuna: Albacore (US+, BC troll/pole)
  • Tuna: Skipjack (troll/pole)
  • White Sea bass
  • Wreck fish
  • Yellow Perch (Lake Erie)

  • Basa, Swai (farmed)
  • Clams, Oysters* (wild)
  • Cod (Pacific trawled)
  • Crab: Blue/Soft-Shell*, King (US), Snow
  • Crab: Imitation/Surimi
  • Flounders, Soles (Pacific)
  • Lake Herring
  • Lake Trout (Lake Superior)*
  • Lake Whitefish (gillnet)*
  • Lobster: American/Maine
  • Mahi mahi/Dolphinfish (US)
  • Ono/Wahoo*
  • Opah*
  • Rainbow Smelt
  • Round Whitefish
  • Salmon (CA, OR, WA wild)
  • Scallops: Sea (Northeast and Canada)
  • Shrimp (US farmed or wild)
  • Snapper: Gray, Lane, Mutton, Yellowtail (US)
  • Squid
  • Swordfish (US longline)*
  • Tuna: Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole)
  • Tuna: canned light, canned white/Albacore*
  • Walleye*

  • Chilean Seabass/Toothfish*
  • Cod (Atlantic)
  • Crab: King (imported)
  • Flounders, Soles (Atlantic)
  • Groupers*
  • Halibut (Atlantic)
  • Lobster: Spiny (Caribbean imported)
  • Lake Trout (Lake Michigan, Lake Huron)*
  • Mahi mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)
  • Monkfish
  • Orange Roughy*
  • Rockfish (Pacific)
  • Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic)*
  • Scallops: Sea (Mid-Atlantic)
  • Sharks*
  • Shrimp (imported farmed or wild)
  • Snapper: Red
  • Sturgeon*, Caviar (imported wild)
  • Swordfish (imported)*
  • Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin (longline)*
  • Tuna: Bluefin*