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Green Choices: Seafood Buyer's Guide

Which labels to look for at the fish counter.
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Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

This label is for farmed shrimp, catfish and tilapia, raised without antibiotics and in conditions that exceed local environmental regulations. Plants that process the fish employ safe-packaging practices to reduce risk of foodborne illnesses.

Eco-benefits: Historically, shrimp, catfish and tilapia farming have caused considerable environmental damage to the biodiversity of wetlands by disturbing sediment, impacting mangroves where wild fish spawn or, in the case of shrimp, scraping the bottoms through drag netting. Only farms prohibiting practices that harm natural habitats are eligible for the label.

Is it regulated? Yes. Site inspections and audits implemented by the nonprofit Aquaculture Certification Council ensure that farms and processing plants meet environmental and safety standards.

Keep in mind: The label applies only to farmed—not wild—shrimp and fish.

Safe Harbor

All fish sold in the U.S. should contain less than the Food and Drug Administration’s safe methylmercury limit of 1 ppm, but not every fish is analyzed. Seafood with this label has been tested for mercury levels and has met Safe Harbor’s standard for that specific species—a threshold that’s lower than the FDA’s 1 ppm "action level" and the average mercury content level for that type of fish.

Health benefits: Reduced exposure to mercury, which may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

Is it regulated? Yes. Only fish that have been tested for mercury and meet the standards get the stamp.

Keep in mind: The label does not necessarily mean that the fish you’re buying is low in mercury; it just means it’s lower than average for that species. For example, it’s prudent for pregnant women to avoid all swordfish (which is very high in mercury)—even that which bears the Safe Harbor seal.

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