Navigating the e-commerce world for fresh, high-quality seafood is full of obstacles and trepidation, and the last thing you want is to end up with overpriced and weeks- or months-old fish at a premium price.
We spent eight months sifting through the world of online seafood suppliers to find the best ones.
Whether you’re after subscription, bulk, or something different, you’ll found options for fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, and more.
Read more: The US is facing a meat shortage, but you can still buy beef, pork, poultry, and more at these online retailers
Meat supplies and availability are in flux right now, and while it’s not impossible to fetch a cut of beef or a pork shoulder online, many of us are looking to different sources of protein. One solution you might consider is adding more seafood to your diet.
The fisheries in the United States are in rough shape right now too, but some companies are still making a go of it — especially on the direct-to-consumer side — and more sustainable options are in good supply.
But you don’t want to buy just anything. If fish isn’t handled correctly, it tends to taste, well, fishy. As a former commercial and charter fisherman, as well as a raw-bar tender, I know good — and bad — fish when I see it. So, after eight months trying out some of the most popular places to buy seafood online, I’ve rounded up my favorites (and highlighted some particularly excellent selections from each).
Whether you’re shopping in bulk for the family or looking for the freshest, highest-quality sushi-grade salmon money can buy, you’ll find all the best options here, including ones for vegetarians and vegans. Yes, seaweed, also known as sea greens, is widely available, and full of flavor, vitamins, and protein. Plus, it’s an up-and-coming superfood, don’t you know.
*Note that some brands are currently experiencing delays, but they tend to be on a daily or weekly basis, so we won’t note them here as things are rapidly changing. The good news from purveyors is that unlike meat, there’s no shortage of fish to go around right now.
Sitka Salmon Shares
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Sitka Salmon Shares works like a community-supported agricultural (CSA) co-op, only with fish, otherwise known as a community-supported fishery (CSF). Members can enroll at three-, six-, and nine-month intervals and receive their monthly share (with no-contact delivery). Depending on the size of the box you decide upon, prices per pound will range from $18-$28, and monthly shares start at $119 per month.
That’s just shy of what you’ll pay in most markets for fresh black cod, and a good deal less than what you’d pay for fresh, wild halibut or salmon (which is often frozen and thawed). The benefit for you is that Sitka Salmon Shares’ fish is blast-frozen at -50 degrees Fahrenheit and expertly vacuum-sealed, so you can confidently load everything into your freezer and expect it will be every bit as good even a year later free of freezer burn and oxidation, which happen when there’s water or air trapped inside the bag.
The benefit for the fishermen is that by working within the cooperative, they’re getting paid more than they would if they were selling their fish to processing plants — Sitka Salmon Shares has its own processing plant, and a strict set of handling processes, leaving you with higher quality fish than you might get at a large-scale processing plant.
You also get what’s in season, and won’t be receiving last year’s salmon just because that’s the number one Alaskan fish everyone knows and loves. Throughout the course of a year, you’ll receive salmon, yes, but also black cod, lingcod, halibut, prawns, and Dungeness crab.
We tried Sitka Salmon Shares in early June and a box arrived of halibut, black cod, and lingcod, which were the species running at the time. Halibut is a coveted fish that often goes for $40 a pound in New York, so the two roughly one-pound fillets we received already made up for over half of the cost of a box. The rest, which amounted to six one-half-pound-or-more fillets of black cod and lingcod — less sought-after species — would probably fall more on the $18-a-pound side of the spectrum, but between all of the species overall, you’re getting more and higher quality Alaskan fish than you’d get in, say, New York, for that price.
Lastly, Sitka Salmon Shares ships in some of the most sustainable packaging around, using corn-starch-based foam as opposed to styrofoam, which is wrapped in recycled #4 plastic bags and filled with dry ice. Everything arrived still solidly frozen and was immaculately sealed. We will hang on to a few of these until next year to see how they fare, but by the looks of the packaging, we’re confident they’ll last that long.
Sea to Table
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Sea to Table leaves you with the most information about your catch right on the label. You’ll know exactly how and when your fish was caught, as well as where it was landed, and you’ll get a very reasonable “best by” date.
We like how Sea to Table vacuum-seals cuts of seafood, too, with not a pocket of air or ice trapped inside. You’ll find delicately-handled fillets and scallops, with nothing broken, nothing mangled, and no unsavory bits like oxidized meat or bloodline, which tend to be offensively pungent upon thawing (and don’t do your health any favors either).
Sea to Table isn’t just among the most accountable brand we found, it offers some of the more sustainability-minded catches. Think skate (an oft-overlooked finfish in the US; a delicacy across the Atlantic), Gulf of Maine redfish, and West Coast Dover sole. Try it all.
Of course, you can order all the salmon you want through the brand, but our favorite option is the Fish Lover’s Box, which will get you two types of salmon, Pacific cod, Gulf of Maine Redfish, Skate, and West Coast Dover sole (12 six-ounce servings in all) for less than $90.
Get Maine Lobster
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Get Maine Lobster deals in the freshest available seafood from Maine. It offers a small menu, but if you want the best and freshest lobster and/or scallops you can get your hands on without going down to the docks or hauling them up yourself, this is the place to shop.
Note that this stuff arrives fresh, and not frozen. You will want to eat it the night it arrives or the night after that. (Though we did stretch the scallops for three days.)
Lobsters are plucked from the water the very morning of the day they’re air-mailed to you — ours nearly kicked the box off the kitchen counter upon receipt — and tails are never more than a few days out of the water by the time you get them. The same goes for the scallops. I ate them raw and they were fresher than the ones I’ve had at most sushi bars.
You’re going to pay a premium if you go with Get Maine Lobster, and while other brands’ lobsters are flash-frozen and of high quality, Get Maine Lobster’s offerings are undoubtedly the best and the freshest. The brand also touts being the only certified Fair Trade lobster purveyor on earth.
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