Here's a look at the five most popular U.S. seafood items, as ranked by the National Fisheries Institute, and a quick and easy checklist of what to look for when shopping:

Shrimp

Ask: Where is it from?

Domestic shrimp are generally better than imported varieties. But wild domestic shrimp are caught with trawl nets that can also ensnare and kill lots of other marine life.

Concerns

Most imported shrimp are farmed in Asia or Central America, where they are usually treated with chemicals or antibiotics and grown in their own waste. These shrimp are often raised in unsealed pools or mesh cages from which contaminants can flow, polluting the surrounding ocean.

Imported wild shrimp also present problems. They are usually caught with trawling nets that clear the ocean floor, catching and killing overfished or endangered species, such as sea turtles.

Best choices

  • • Spot prawns from Canada and northern U.S. waters
  • • Wild-caught northern shrimp
  • • Northern pink shrimp certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), rare in restaurants but available in some grocery stores and fish markets

Canned Tuna

Ask: What kind is it?

All species of tuna have health and sustainability issues, and many scientists fear they are on the path to depletion. While there is no good tuna choice, some species are doing better than others. Varieties of albacore and skipjack tuna are the best choices.

Concerns

Ninety percent of the ocean's large predators, including tuna, have disappeared due to overfishing. And most tuna destined for cans—even the "dolphin-safe" kind—is caught using destructive practices.

Tuna also contains high levels of mercury. Because of its popularity, it is the biggest source of this toxin in humans.

Best choices

The best choice is to avoid tuna altogether until it is given the chance to recover. But if you can't completely cut it out of your diet, here are a few options that are better than others:

  • • MSC-certified West Coast albacore
  • * Canned light albacore, especially if it's pole-and-line caught
  • • Canned "light" tuna, especially skipjack, which is smaller and more abundant than other tuna and contains less mercury

Salmon

Ask: Where is it from?

Nearly all Atlantic salmon is farmed, and many wild Pacific salmon fisheries have been shut down due to concerns about habitat loss and unsustainable water management. Wild Alaskan salmon is more plentiful, though, and Alaska does a better job of using sustainable fishing practices.

Concerns

Industrial-farmed salmon presents significant health concerns because it contains far higher levels of contaminants and chemical toxins than wild salmon does. The fish are given antibiotics and color additives to make them look appetizing. Salmon farming also can have major adverse effects on the environment.

Best choices

  • • Sustainably fished wild Alaskan salmon (it's also available in cans)
  • • Fish that has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and carries a blue MSC sticker. Whole Foods has some of the highest standards for farmed salmon in the industry.

Pollock

Ask: Am I eating it now?

You may not think you eat much of this fish, but that's because it's often not prominently labeled. Pollock is used in imitation crabmeat, fast-food fish sandwiches and frozen fish sticks.

Concerns

Recent science has indicated that pollock are declining, and as a result fishery managers have cut back the amount of fish that can be harvested. Further reductions may be necessary.

Best choice

  • • Wild-caught pollock, though there are some concerns about the ecosystem impacts in areas where depletion has occurred

Tilapia

Ask: Where is it from?

Tilapia is native to the Nile River in Africa, so it is rare to encounter wild tilapia in this country.

Concerns

Most tilapia is farmed in Asia, where it is treated with antibiotics and pesticides and exposed to carbon monoxide. Tilapia often contains an artificial male sex hormone that is absorbed by humans when the fish is eaten. Male tilapia grow faster and command a higher price than females, so the fish are often treated with the hormone to induce a sex change.

Best choice

  • • U.S.-farmed tilapia is the best option because domestic growers apply higher standards and use fewer contaminants. It may still be treated with antibiotics and pesticides, but that practice is less common in America than in Asia.

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