Pacific sardines (Photo © sf_foodphoto/ Salmon Albacore tuna Oysters

The Super Green List:

Connecting Human and Ocean Health

Seafood plays an important role in a balanced diet. Many types are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other ailments. Omega-3s are especially important for pregnant and nursing women, and young children. However, some fish also contain toxin levels that can pose certain health risks if eaten too frequently.

Good for You, Good for the Oceans

Combining the work of conservation and public health organizations, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has identified seafood that's "Super Green," meaning that it's excellent for human health and is caught or farmed responsibly. The Super Green list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch "Best Choices" (green) list, are low in mercury and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

This effort draws from experts in human health, notably scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The Monterey Bay Aquarium will continue to work with these organizations to balance the health and environmental attributes of our seafood recommendations.

The Super Green list includes seafood that meets the following three criteria:
  • Has low levels of mercury (below 216 parts per billion [ppb])
  • Provides at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s
  • Is classified as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice" (green)

Other Healthy "Best Choices":
  • Contain moderate amounts of mercury
  • Provide between 100 and 250 mg/d of omega-3s
  • Is classified as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice" (green)

Contaminants in Seafood

Seafood contaminants include metals (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals at the base of the ocean food web. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated. Large predatory fish—like swordfish and sharks—end up with the most toxins. You can minimize risks by choosing seafood carefully. Use our Super Green list and learn more about mercury in seafood on the EDF website.

The Best of the Best: July 2013*

  • Atlantic Mackerel (purse seine from Canada and the U.S.)
  • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
  • Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

Other Healthy "Best Choices"**

  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

*The Super Green list is based on dietary requirements for an average woman of childbearing age (18-45, 144 pounds) eating eight ounces of fish per week. The list also applies to men and children; children should eat age-appropriate portions to maximize their health benefits while minimizing risk. The recommendation of 250 mg of omega-3s refers to the combined level of two omega-3s of primary importance to human health: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).

**Other Healthy "Best Choices" are low in contaminants and provide a smaller amount of omega-3s (between 100 and 250 mg/d, assuming eight ounces of fish per week).

Mercury data are taken from a recent study published by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Stonybrook University, compiled from more than 300 government databases and peer-reviewed scientific studies on mercury levels in U.S. seafood.

Omega-3 data are primarily from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
(version 25).