12 Fish You Should Probably Never Eat

A few years ago, I was at a sustainable seafood conference held in New York. The place was buzzing with equal parts excitement (surrounding innovations in aquaculture and sustainable fish stocks) and dread (surrounding the dwindling supply of healthy wild fish). One thing the experts largely agreed upon was that the idea of having a definitive and trusty list of fish to eat, as well as fish to avoid, was illusory at best. The reason is that conditions are changing so quickly, as are technology and the environment, that purchasing and consuming the “right” fish is like trying to hit a moving target. The takeaway is that if you want to make the right seafood choices, guides like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch provide thoughtful guidance, but cannot provide the definitive answer as what to eat and avoid, because things are constantly changing.

The solution is not to give up and start eating shark and Bluefin Tuna (both on the “Avoid” list) or to stop eating fish altogether (although this should be a consideration for some, if not many) but to stay reasonably informed, as eating fish is kind of like shopping for a mortgage. All of that said, I did come upon a compelling list which was recently published by Rodale naming the dozen (or “dirty dozen”) varieties of fish that are pretty much always a bad idea to consume, taking into account everything from environmental impact to toxicity. The list is as follows:

Imported Catfish
Caviar
Atlantic Cod
American Eel
Imported Shrimp
Atlantic Flatfish
Atlantic Salmon (Wild and Farmed)
Imported King Crab
Shark
Orange Roughy
Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna
Chilean Sea Bass

So the obvious question would be, “Well what the hell can I eat?” Well the list gives alternatives such as:

Domestic catfish
Yellow snapper
Pacific halibut
Wild Alaskan salmon
Wild gulf shrimp
Pacific cod
American lake sturgeon

The past few years have shown some positive signs in the industry of sustainable aquaculture producing relatively “clean” seafood in far less environmentally damaging ways. The trick is remaining informed and vigilant, knowing full well that unless things change for the better, buying and consuming the right fish will continue to be a difficult endeavor.

Related:
Safe, Sustainable Fish
9 Freaky Fish You Should Be Eating

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387 comments

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney10 months ago

Our family eat fish on Good Friday and we are not Catholic, will only eat Australian fish, none of that imported crap, all supermarkets here have to label the fish to say if Australian or imported.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney10 months ago

great article, don't eat any imported fish, most on the list are yukky, thank you for sharing.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants10 months ago

Nor Babel Fish, for that matter...

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants10 months ago

Silverfish!

Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo10 months ago

Shirley T.
your comments are an inspiration.....

it is a fact that Amerikans have polluted and degraded life across the world with their excesses and abuse of the worlds natural resources including people!!

Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo10 months ago

I totally agree with Shirley T.

Barbara D.
Past Member about a year ago

Martin, in many, many cultures fish was the mainstay ~ boring day after day mainstay ~ meat a rare, delightful luxury. In modern times, with meat plentiful, Catholics avoided it as a sign of devotion.
You make it sound like some perverse cult requirement, like biting off the heads of chickens FGS.

Barbara D.
Past Member about a year ago

Pufferfish aren't at the top of my list either!

Don H.
Don H.about a year ago

The once abundant American lake sturgeon have become nearly extinct in the Great Lakes.

I don't believe they are numerous enough anywhere to sustain a regular catch.

Don H.
Don H.about a year ago

Martin R, Catholics were never required to eat fish on Fridays.

They were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays so the tradition was to eat fish instead.

I know this because I was raised Catholic.