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Fresh seafood is delicious and supports a healthy, nutritious diet, but it's not always easy to come by outside of a coastal town with fish markets and waterfront restaurants a-plenty.

As if proximity to water wasn't a big enough barrier to finding fresh fish, the COVID-19 crisis has many people holed up in their homes rather than braving local markets. Grocery delivery and prepared meal kits have become clutch during this time, but even the most practiced online shopper may hesitate when it comes to a delivery order of seafood. It's not exactly like you can work out curbside pickup for Maine lobster takeout or holler at a fisherman for a local delivery of his latest catch.

Or can you?

If you're worried that ordering online means you wouldn't be getting the freshest seafood, we urge you to take another look at online seafood delivery. These services offer the fresh seafood you crave, from shellfish for your favorite grilled shrimp recipe to succulent crab cakes to clams for salty New England clam chowder. You'll be able to order a bounty of salmon, halibut, crab, shrimp, swordfish, lobster and mollusks -- even if you don't live anywhere near an ocean. 

Though it might feel counterintuitive to use an online ordering system to acquire fresh seafood, the industry is currently experiencing a boom. In fact, delivery may be the best way to place affordable and fresh seafood into your meal rotation -- especially if you live far from fished waters or don't want to risk heading into a restaurant just yet.

Ordering from these companies means access to some of the most sought-after seafood products like wild sockeye salmon, jumbo shrimp, gulf shrimp, swordfish steak, bluefin tuna, oysters, Maine lobster, crab cakes and king crab legs. You'll also get harder-to-find species of fish like monkfish and grouper. Most are flash-frozen, carefully packaged with dry ice and delivered to your door as a one-time order or in a recurring subscription. Freshness and transparency are key when buying seafood and many companies are finding innovative ways to ensure both while supporting sustainable seafood fishing practices. Many now provide detailed records about exactly where the seafood came from, when it was caught, how far it traveled and even what sorts of fishing practices have been employed.

Sean Dimin, founder of the seafood delivery startup Sea to Table, explains how his company has been Marine Stewardship Council chain-of-custody-certified since the very beginning. Sea to Table goes so far as to label each package with the species, of course, but also where that fish was caught, how it was caught and the fishery management body responsible for its sustainability. They'll even include the name of the fishing vessel in many cases. 

With the exception of a few species like lobster, most seafood you order online ships and arrives frozen or, in some cases, partially thawed. If that gives you pause, remember that much of the "fresh" seafood you're buying at a grocery store has already been frozen and defrosted before being laid out on the ice or wrapped in plastic. It's also important to know that frozen fish is just as good for you -- when handled properly -- as fresh fish is. 

Purveyors such as Sea to Table freeze when the seafood is at peak freshness, too. That means, in many cases and depending on how far it had to travel, flash-frozen seafood is just as fresh and sometimes fresher than fish that wasn't frozen. In essence, you're getting some of the best offerings available, especially if you don't live near a coast. Try not to think of fresh and frozen as mutually exclusive. If you live near the sea or other fished waters, there's probably nothing better than going out and buying a few fresh filets from a local seafood market or trusted fishmonger, but for the millions without this luxury, these are a few of the best online seafood delivery companies and subscription services to order from in 2020. 

Note that this list was first created before the COVID-19 pandemic, so some of the companies that are listed may no longer accept new customers or deliver to your area.   

Fulton Fish Market

About Fulton Fish Market: The name might sound familiar and that's because it's a physical fish market in New York City -- the second largest in the world only behind Tokyo's famously huge fish market. Fulton now offers online sales, in addition to selling wholesale off the docks to some of the largest purveyors and restaurant groups in the world. That means that through Fulton Fish Market you'll have access to one of the largest selections of fresh fish and seafood anywhere. You can get almost any variety of fish from wild and farmed salmon to fresh swordfish, halibut and a few harder-to-find species. Fulton also has a wide selection of shellfish including Atlantic and Pacific oysters, lobsters, scallops, mussels and clams. That's not all: You can add tasty H. Forman & Son smoked salmon or tins of paddlefish caviar to your order.  

How it works: At Fulton Fish Market you order fish by the piece, box or a curated bundle. Different species like fresh tuna, wild snapper and cod are available in different counts and you'll generally save more per pound if you order in bundles. A 10-pack of 8-ounce salmon filets, for instance, can be had for around $83 or a halibut and salmon stock-up bundle goes for $99. You can also subscribe and Fulton will send a monthly, bimonthly or weekly curated box of fish starting at $65 per month for four 6-ounce portions, but ordering a la carte seems to net the best value.  

Rastelli's

About Rastelli's: Rastelli's began as a small butcher shop in 1976 serving its small New Jersey community. The family-owned butcher made a name selling some of the best meat possible, but more recently Rastelli's entered the seafood game, and its catch is as fresh as any on the list. You can score fish-fan favorites like wild tuna, Faroe Island salmon, shrimp, lobster and Icelandic cod. It may not have as big a selection as some others we reviewed but the beauty of Rastelli's -- beyond supporting a small business and not having to leave the house -- is ordering your seafood, beef, chicken and pork all in one place. 

How it works: Seafood from Rastelli's must be ordered in semibulk (eight filets of cod, for instance). You can shop a la carte for fish, shrimp and meats or select from a few curated boxes like the seafood sampler for $109. Shipping is always free when you spend $200, so you can get the month's meat and fish supply in a single order and pay nothing for delivery. Use code CNET20 and get $20 off your first order.

Read more on Chowhound: A guide to types of salmon

LobsterAnywhere

About LobsterAnywhere: As the name implies, this company specializes in the tasty crustaceans and ships them live and direct from the cold waters of Maine, the lobster capital of the US. They sell only hard-shelled lobsters, which are more expensive than soft-shell but are also considered to be the best -- so you might be able to find cheaper lobsters in your supermarket, but LobsterAnywhere promises the absolute best in quality. Because of market fluctuation LobsterAnywhere's prices also fluctuate but are generally competitive.

How it works: There are other offerings available like shrimp and scallops, but lobster is definitely the main draw here. You can order a whole live lobster (or lobsters) as well as lobster tails (frozen and in the shell) or lobster meat (shelled) by the pound. This is not a subscription, so you order exactly what you want and it ships in roughly two days.

Thrive Market

About Thrive Market: This is less a seafood purveyor and more a wide-ranging marketplace with pantry staples and grocery items, some of which are harder to find. Though options are limited, they do offer a build-your-own-meat-and-seafood box that you can customize to taste. There's not as much commitment to transparency and traceability here, but as a bonus, you can tack a ton of other great products on to your order and save on shipping. 

How it works: The Build Your Own Meat & Seafood Box clocks in at $119 and requires you to select three things from a list of "staple cuts," which is mostly chicken and pork, then two selections from a list of "classic cuts," including wild-caught cod and shrimp, and finally one from the "premium cuts" list, which includes wild sockeye salmon, scallops and lobster tails.

Sea to Table

About Sea to Table: Americans really eat just a small handful of types of fish at home, according to Sea to Table's Sean Dimin, and one of his aims is to introduce folks to great catches like Atlantic skate, redfish or Dover sole. Sea to Table's fish all comes from US wild domestic fisheries and is caught, landed and processed in the US. To prove it, each pack of fish has a traceability label so you know exactly what you're getting and where it came from, down to the actual fishing vessel that landed it. 

How it works: You can choose from boxes like The New Englander, The Kosher Box and The Discovery Box, which features six full servings of fish from sustainable fisheries, including Maine redfish, scallops and skate, starting at just $38 (plus shipping). Choose either a one-time order or a (slightly cheaper) subscription to be delivered every two, four or eight weeks. Everything ships FedEx ground, fresh-frozen and packed with dry ice in recycled denim packaging.

Sitka Salmon Shares

About Sitka Salmon Shares: Providing fresh salmon and other fish from the pristine waters of Southeast Alaska, this program is owned by a collective of carefully selected small-scale family fishermen who retain 20% to 30% more of the retail value of their harvest than is typical. Community-based and sourced from traditional fishing communities, everything is flash-frozen at peak freshness and 100% traceable from the boat to your doorstep. 

How it works: Sitka is a community-supported fishery and operates more like a community-supported agriculture organization (aka CSA or "farm share"). This means you enroll in the program and purchase a "share" of the harvest in three- to nine-month intervals receiving deliveries that are -- to a certain extent -- at the mercy of what their fishermen catch during any given month. Regular species include wild Alaskan king salmon, sockeye salmon, coho salmon, keta salmon, lingcod, black bass, black cod, Pacific cod, yelloweye, rockfish, spot prawns, Dungeness crab, albacore tuna and halibut.

Each share varies in length and where it falls on the calendar; for example, the Premium Share starts in April and runs through December, while the Taste of Summer Share runs May through August. The fish is priced between $18-$28 per pound depending on which type of share you choose. Sitka then delivers your ever-changing seafood haul to your door monthly. You can cancel or change your order at any time.

Wild Alaskan Company

About Wild Alaskan Company: As you might have gathered from the name, this company specializes in fresh wild-caught seafood including wild salmon. It is generally thought to be both healthier and more sustainable than farmed fish, and company founder and Alaska native Arron Kallenberg has set his sights on helping American consumers gain access to good, fresh fish. All the fish is caught either in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest with a commitment to sustainability and transparency. As of August 2020, the company added wild-caught Alaskan Dungeness crab as a member special.

How it works: The company bills itself as a share more than a traditional retailer or marketplace and offers a monthly subscription. You can choose from salmon-only boxes, whitefish boxes or a combo, and the monthly shipments of fish (frozen at "peak freshness") start at $132 per month for 12 6-ounce portions. You can skip months or pause your membership anytime, for no extra charge.

Patagonia

About Patagonia Provisions: You might more readily associate this brand with fleece jackets and camping gear, but Patagonia recently got into the culinary arena with its provisions arm. Patagonia offers an array of shelf-stable (until opened) fish, including smoked and cured salmon, mackerel, mussels and more, designed to be taken on boating or camping trips or simply enjoyed at home.

How it works: A pretty straightforward process where you order what you want with items starting at just $7 for some small boxes of mackerel and mussels, all the way up to $399 for a massive Feed the Family variety pack.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.