Something Fishy on Your Phone

by Sarah Henry on August 19, 2009 · 8 comments

in food gadgets,seafood

Just back from a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I was enchanted by The Secret Lives of Seahorses exhibit. Leafy sea dragons, pipehorses, pipefishes, potbelly seahorses — fascinating creatures one and all. Plus it’s the male seahorse who gets pregnant. How about that little factoid to bring a smile to your face?

seafoodwatch-iPhone-app

While there we learned the aquarium has updated its Seafood Watch list. This guide recommends which fish are best to buy, which make good alternatives, and which to avoid because of overfishing or unsustainable practices. So albacore tuna (troll/pole caught) gets the green light, yellowfin (long-line caught) a cautionary yellow, and bluefin tuna a red no. It’s a good little resource when shopping for fish at the market or eating out at a restaurant but, since it’s a paper guide, it often gets left at home.  Mine lives on the fridge, which is of no help when facing fish dinner choices.

That problem has been solved for the pescetarians and omnivores among us. The guide is now available as a free iPhone or iPod touch app. That was welcome news to my techno-savvy son, 11, who is delighted that his mama has emerged from the Dark Ages and now totes a groovy new 3G iPhone. (I’m still figuring out how to use all its features.) Technology trumped politics: My strident vegetarian son begged me to let him add this new application to our growing list.

The mobile guide, also available online and downloadable for other devices, contains a national list, six regional versions, and a sushi name finder. It offers more details than the pocket guide but has a few flaws, as noted in this PC World Review. (I won’t pretend to be an expert, apparently sometimes pertinent info spills off the screen.)

That said, it’s probably better for the planet to leave home with a phone that has the skinny on what salmon is sustainable than not having this information at all on your way to the store.

Speaking of which, what other cooking-related info can be stored on these so-called smartphones (Blackberry users that means you too)? I gather generating grocery lists and finding recipes is possible, though I’ve yet to do either.  Are there any particular foodie apps or phone functions that really help make getting a meal on the table easier that you’d care to share with clueless me?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie August 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

One important drawback of the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood list is that it doesn’t address toxins in fish – and what fish we humans should abstain from in order to avoid mercury or PCB exposures – especially children and pregnant women. For example, large muscular fish like tuna, swordfish, etc. are high in mercury, since they sit fairly high on the food chain from the sea. Meanwhile, the EPA/FDA lists don’t officially include fresh caught tuna as food to avoid because of mercury content, but that’s not because they aren’t fish that contain mercury, but primarily because the tuna lobby successfully convinced them not to… The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)’s Minnesota Guide for Fish gives you an idea of what the health issues are connected to eating tuna and other fish that remain on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list – http://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=37456. Note the advice about canned albacore tuna, which has been tested to have 3 times the mercury than chunk light tuna. Hmmm…

Reply

Ken Peterson August 19, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Actually, we do have toxin information, supplied by our colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund — the leaders in analyzing & publicizing contaminants in seafood. Our guides call out species with health alerts.

Look for an updated version of the iPhone app that will address issues with version 1.0; other enhancements in the pipeline!

Thanks for the support, and 3 cheers to your son for his active interest.

Ken Peterson, Monterey Bay Aquarium

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anothermama August 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

Just read this recent article on mercury in fish — before touching base with your blog. All very grim, and it makes me feel stuck between wanting to eat fish for my health, and not wanting to eat fish for my health. Applies to the kids, as well, of course.

http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE57J01720090820

Oh dear! How can we hasten a quick cleanup of pervasive toxins? Ideas?

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Lisa August 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm

I see anothermama has beaten me to citing the article. I have cut back on fish in the last few years because of price and toxin concerns. Now I’m even more freaked out and not sure what is good for me and my family.

By the way – I loved the seahorse exhibit too. Weren’t those sea dragons incredible?

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Sarah Henry September 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm

My friend Molly Watson over at About.com includes a handy guide to sustainable tuna sources. Learn more here:
http://localfoods.about.com/b/2009/08/31/back-to-school-try-these-tunas.htm

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