Their rating system is based on a few factors -- abundance, fish/farm methods, damage to habitat, sustainability and mercury levels. The pamphlet categorizes each species with a key that include colored fish (which range in colors from dark green to red -- dark green is best overall), a fish silhouette inside a blue oval (signifying sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council [MSC]), and a flag (indicating high mercury levels).
The website for BOI also includes the information on each of these fish but I found a few draw backs by using the online option as opposed to the accordion-fold paper pamphlet. First, the website forces the user to click on a thumbnail of each fish type (such as salmon) which then shows the rating of each of the different types within the species (Atlantic, Alaska, Pacific) on a corresponding page. In order to review all marine types it is necessary to click back and forth; it is possible to review all types but is a little bit more time consuming. The next issue is that it is much easier to pull this quick reference guide out of a purse or wallet while at a restaurant since not everyone has access to the Internet from their handheld device; smarter choices can be made while eating out. Finally, I did not find all of the same information as readily online; to find a rating for clams, mussels or oysters online I had to enter the name into the search box but they are listed first on the pamphlet.
Despite any of these drawbacks to the reference guide, I did find the website to be extremely informational as it also includes a plethora of information specific to sushi, Seafood FAQs, video, guide to chefs and loads of additional information as related to our oceans and what we consume from their depths. Also, the website has the guide available for download and it can easily be cut out, folded and carried on the go.
Overall I feel that the Blue Ocean Institute is a fantastic organization for information on how we all can make a difference by selecting seafood that is safer and sustainable so I am granting this organization a Four Leaf Rating.
I will continue to check in with this organization from time to time to see if and when their pamphlet information is updated. I applaud BOI for their determination to provide us with unbiased facts with regard to the foods we enjoy eating that come from the sea.