FishPhone Shows the Way to Sustainable Fish


Over coffee last week, my friend Tracy at Segnavia Creative suggested trying a sushi restaurant for our next Simple, Good, and Tasty local meal. "But we live in Minnesota," I laughed, "I've never eaten trout, crappie, or walleye sushi - and I don't know that I want to." Tracy politely suggested I consider sustainability as the guiding principle (I'm still considering it...), which made me think of Arctic char (one of most sustainable fish, Craftsman Chef Mike Phillips tells me). And then I heard about a little cell phone application called FishPhone, which aims to let you know if the fish on the menu - or on your plate - is healthy and/or eco-friendly. FishPhone is a product of the Blue Ocean Institute. Here's what it says on their website:

FishPhone is Blue Ocean’s sustainable seafood text messaging service that instantly puts sustainable seafood information at your fingertips. To find out about your seafood choice, text 30644 with the message FISH and the name of the fish in question. We’ll text you back with our assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns. Blue Ocean’s Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood is also available for cellphone and mobile device users at Download a copy of the guide to view it anytime.

More information about FishPhone is available in a recent (January 2009) issue of Scientific American entitled "Sustainable Fishing at your Fingertips." Here's an excerpt: fishphone

Elaine Iandoli, a Blue Ocean spokesperson, says that FishPhone has received some 45,000 queries from more than 15,000 users since it was launched in fall 2007. She says it includes rankings of some 100 edible sea creatures that are updated twice a year and comprise different wild-caught and farm-raised fish.

For wild fish, scientists take into account how a fish is caught (using nets, polls or harpoons, for example); whether the stock is being managed responsibly; how abundant the breed is (compared with historic levels); and whether fishing methods endanger other species (such as nets used to fish for  yellowfin tuna that snare and kill dolphins). For farmed fish, they factor in what the fish are fed, if the farms are big polluters, and the risk of the farmed species wreaking havoc on local ecosystems if they escape.

It's so easy, and the benefits are so clear: give FishPhone a try. I'll keep thinking about that Minnesota sushi dinner.