Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Putting Social to Work: Sustainable Seafood Mapping

For the last 10 years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has distributed wallet cards that give an at-a-glance guide to which types of seafood are sustainably fished and which are not because of overly depleted populations, destroyed habitats or some other reason.

Last year the aquarium’s Seafood Watch program launched an iPhone app that does the same thing on a searchable and localized scale.

And it’s been downloaded 325,000 times. So, this week, the Seafood Watch app got a social upgrade, which lets users contribute information about where they have actually found sustainable seafood for sale.

Like mobile social health applications such as RunKeeper, this is one of the more interesting interpretations of making a function social.

In the new Seafood Watch app, a feature called “Project FishMap” allows users to tag restaurants and markets across the United States to note what specific sustainable seafood is offered, and earn (of course!) virtual badges for their contributions. And users can also load up the app when deciding where to eat, so they can make their decision based on where sustainable seafood is available.

Eventually, perhaps, this user-generated seafood map could be made available for incorporation into other local apps like Yelp. But for now, the aquarium is just promising that an Android app will be released next year.

The idea behind the Seafood Watch project has been to enable consumers to show their preference by asking for sustainable options and voting for them with their wallets. But sometimes trying to make a better choice can get awfully confusing, when, for instance, the waiter at a restaurant has no idea where the cod came from (Atlantic wild-caught cod=”avoid”; Alaska longline cod=”best choice”).

However, the aquarium says the program has been effective in lobbying larger businesses–food service companies Compass Group and Aramark have committed to purchasing sustainable seafood, and Whole Foods Market has begun labeling its seafood with the project’s recommendations.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik