17 Fish to Never Eat

Food poisoning affects approximately 3.5 million Americans each year. Meat and poultry items are the most frequent culprits. However, many individuals choose seafood because it is regarded as safer than other foods.

The most popular fish is not always the safest.


Depending on the fish, it may be a superfood or an inflammatory, toxic nightmare for your body. That’s why it’s so important to know (and avoid) the fish to avoid.

It’s essential to get enough omega-3 fatty acids, and certain fish are high in them. Unfortunately, heavy elements like mercury accumulate in our fish due to mining, sewage, and fossil fuel pollution. Low-level mercury poisoning from contaminated seafood is a significant health risk.

Also, some species have been overfished to the point of extinction, potentially harming the ocean ecosystem. Fortunately, there are safe, low-contaminant alternatives with stable populations.

Let’s look at some fish you should never eat and other better options.

Never Eat Fish

1. Tilapia is a kind of fish

Did you realize that eating tilapia is, in some ways, worse than eating bacon? According to a 2008 research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, eating more farmed fish like tilapia contributes to highly inflammatory diets.

According to Wake Forest University School of Medicine experts, tilapia is one of America’s most popular fish. So what’s the issue with that? It has meager amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and, possibly, more importantly, extremely high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Maintaining high levels of inflammation in the body may exacerbate autoimmune symptoms and be related to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

If you must eat tilapia, stay away from Chinese tilapia, which has especially questionable production methods. Instead, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Ecuador, and Peru are better suppliers.

Naturally, wild-caught tilapia is superior to farmed fish, but it isn’t easy to come by.

2. Cod from the Atlantic

Atlantic cod has a long history of being a significant food source for New World culture and the early colonization of the Caribbean Sea. However, intensive fishing has taken its toll over the past thousand years. As a result, the fisheries failed in the late 1990s, and disaster hit.

Even though the female cod produces over a hundred million eggs, only a tiny percentage of them survive to maturity. Scientists concur, according to Oceana, that the Atlantic Cod collapse has profoundly altered North Atlantic food webs, and the species is now deemed vulnerable to extinction.

If you want to use cod liver oil, be sure it isn’t from Atlantic cod. Choose Alaskan cod fished with a longline, pot, or jig instead.

3. Flatfish from the Atlantic

These flatfish species have earned their place on the list of fish you should never eat due to past overfishing and high contamination levels.

Oceana, the world’s most prominent ocean conservation organization, investigated utilizing the National Marine Fisheries Service data in 2014. Based on “wasted bycatch,” it determined the nine worst fisheries in the United States.

They discovered that commercial fisherman in the United States discards approximately 2 billion pounds of “bycatch” each year. This equates to almost half a billion seafood dinners. The halibut gillnet fishery in California has been recognized as one of the worst. According to the study, if you’ve eaten halibut from the United States, it likely originated from this harmful fishing.

4. Caviar

Beluga sturgeon are ancient fish prized for their fish eggs, often known as caviar. In reality, these fish may grow very big, life to be 100 years old, and contain hundreds of pounds of caviar valued up to $3,500 per pound.

The fish that produces this coveted caviar, according to Oceana, is in serious trouble:

It has vanished entirely from many oceans and rivers where it formerly thrived, and experts believe it is severely endangered. To put it another way, it is very susceptible to extinction across its whole range. Without further protection and enforcement of current efforts, we risk losing one of the world’s largest and most fascinating fishes forever.

If you can’t live without caviar, Seafood Watch suggests caviar from blue sturgeon produced in recirculating aquaculture systems in the United States as a more sustainable option.

5. Seabass from Chile

This deep-sea predator fish was formerly known as the Patagonia toothfish, but seafood wholesalers called it “Chilean seabass” because it sounded less threatening. It was successful. The overfishing of Chilean seabass, which is now popular on menus throughout the United States, has jeopardized the species.

Aside from overfishing, the high mercury levels in the water are also a concern. Furthermore, inadequate management and bycatch issues affect fish harvesting in Chile.

6. Eel

Eel is on the “Avoid” list in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch sushi recommendation because it is slow to develop and overfished in many areas of the globe, causing some populations to collapse.

As a result, Asian nations turn to American eels, which are also endangered in the United States. This is a concern since eels are vital to protecting our water sources. Eels, for example, are an essential component of the Delaware River’s expanding mussel populations, which act as natural water filters.

Aside from the problems associated with overfishing, eels have a proclivity for absorbing and storing hazardous chemicals and pollutants such as PCBs and flame retardants. As a result, river eels are so polluted in certain areas, such as New Jersey, that adults are recommended to consume no more than one eel per year.

7. Salmon from a farm

Salmon is widely consumed in the United States. But, unfortunately, the bulk of them are the most unhealthy. In reality, most “Atlantic” salmon is farmed, which means the fish are grown in circumstances that are frequently contaminated with pesticides, excrement, germs, and parasites.

Furthermore, research shows that farmed salmon is more likely to contain hazardous chemicals such as PCBs related to insulin resistance, obesity, cancer, and stroke. They’re also often given antibiotics and have greater levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

Choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon instead of Atlantic salmon for a superior option.

8. Imported Basa/Swai/Tra/Striped Catfish 

Although these fish are becoming more popular as fashionable new menu items throughout the United States, you’re more than likely getting pangasius or swai fish. This far less expensive alternative wholesales for about $2 per pound.

Vibrio bacteria — the microorganisms that cause most instances of shellfish poisoning — were identified in 70–80 percent of pangasius samples in a 2016 research. This fish factory farming technique also results in fish swimming in trash and sludge, harming vital river life and wetlands. So, in addition to insecticides and disinfectants, they’re often treated with a variety of antibiotics.

Run if swai, basa, striped catfish, or any other kind of imported catfish appears on the menu. Take this as an indication that the restaurant isn’t concerned about seafood safety or sustainability.

9. Shrimp from a Farm in the United States

Is it true that shrimp is healthy for you? Unfortunately, the answer is a loud “no” for farmed shrimp, which accounts for about 90% of the shrimp we eat.

4-hexylresorcinol, a food additive used to avoid discoloration in shrimp, was found by Italian researchers in 2009 to decrease sperm count in males and raise the risk of breast cancer in women.

Not only that, but all but one of the chemicals used in shrimp production throughout the world are prohibited on shrimp farms in the United States. In addition, hazardous chemicals and pesticides, such as malachite green, rotenone, and organotin compounds, are used in shrimp farm ponds, all of which may be harmful to human health.

In addition, an Associated Press investigation revealed a Thailand-based slavery network devoted to peeling shrimp for export. According to Food and Water Watch, Thailand alone sold $1.24 billion to the United States in 2007.

Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch suggests farmed shrimp from the United States or Alaskan shrimp if you must eat shrimp.

10. King Crab (Imported)

Approximately 75% of the king crab marketed in the United States comes from Russia, where prevalent unsustainable fishing methods. Even though Alaskan king crab legs may only be legally named if caught in Alaska, rampant mislabeling is the standard. Many red king crabs captured in Russia under dubious conditions, for example, are sold as Alaskan king crab legs.

Because imported king crab should be avoided at all costs, it’s crucial to know where those crab legs originated before ordering them. Something is incorrect if the label contains claims like “imported” and “Alaskan.” For additional information, see Seafood Watch’s full crab guidelines.

11. Roughy Orange

Orange roughy is one of the longest-living marine fish species, with a lifespan of up to 150 years. This fish is known as “slimehead,” but seafood marketers had different plans for it and gave it a more appealing moniker within the scientific world. As a consequence, the species has been severely overfished.

Orange roughy takes a long time to recuperate since they don’t achieve sexual maturity until they’re at least 20 years old. According to Oceana, “a devastated population may take a half-century or more to recover because of the very long lifetime and late age at maturity.”

Furthermore, the orange roughy is known to have greater levels of mercury, which may be hazardous if eaten in excessive quantities.

12. Shark

Sharks are often featured on lists of fish you should never eat for a variety of reasons. They are at the top of the food chain as sea bosses. This translates to increased mercury levels in meals and supplements, which you should avoid.

Most shark species are severely depleted since they are slow to mature and produce few progenies. This is partly due to the strong demand for shark fins in Asian cuisine and the fact that tuna and swordfish longline fishers often catch hundreds of sharks by mistake and dump them as trash.

13. Bluefin Tuna from the Atlantic

Even though Atlantic bluefin tuna is a favorite sushi component, it’s recommended to avoid this popular fish. On sushi menus, this is often referred to as Hon Maguro, which means bluefin tuna, which should be avoided at all costs. Instead, Katsuo/skipjack tuna obtained only by Pacific troll or pole and line techniques would be a superior sushi option.

For a variety of reasons, Atlantic bluefin tuna should never be eaten on land. To begin with, it has been severely overfished to the brink of extinction. However, fishery management continues to allow commercial fishing to target sushi because of its great demand.

Regrettably, bluefin tuna populations are just 2.6 percent of historic levels. So aside from the apparent danger of population collapse and extinction, this is a giant predatory fish with greater mercury levels.

14. Swordfish

When it comes to avoiding swordfish, the primary worry is mercury. Elevated amounts may be seen in this big predatory fish.

Indeed, the mercury content of this fish is so high that the Environmental Defense Fund advises women and children to stay away from it entirely. Likewise, men are advised to consume no more than one serving each month.

15. King Mackerel

Mackerel is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, you may be getting more than you bargained for when it comes to some kinds of mackerel. That is the case with king mackerel, which the FDA advises women and children to avoid at all costs. It would help if you also stayed away from Spanish mackerel, linked to high mercury levels.

Fortunately, Mackerel from the Atlantic is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury, and a top option for health and sustainability.

16. Grouper

Because of its relatively high mercury levels, grouper is on the list of fish you should never eat. Unfortunately, overfishing is also a severe threat to this species.

Grouper is a popular target for seafood scammers. A study in 2015 discovered that more than a third of 19 Atlanta eateries were selling pangasius (also known as “Vietnamese catfish”) as grouper.

Testing also revealed that “grouper” for sale is often king mackerel or whitefin weakfish, a less expensive option. In addition, mislabeling was found in one-fifth to more than one-third of the halibut, grouper, cod, and Chilean seabass samples.

17. Sturgeon

Although Beluga sturgeon are the most often targeted for their eggs, other sturgeon are also in danger. Some of them even show up on restaurant menus. As a result, sturgeon are “more severely endangered than any other category of species,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fish that are healthier to eat

Fish that come from sustainable fisheries is low in pollutants and rich in omega-three fatty acids are the best choices. This is referred to as the “Super Green List” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

The following fish meet the bill for the healthiest fish:

Alaskan salmon captured in the wild

You receive the full salmon health advantages when you select wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Salmon is a good source of protein, B vitamins, potassium, and selenium, in addition to heart-healthy lipids.

Sardines from the Pacific

Sardines are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids on the globe. Contaminant levels are minimal since they are a lower-ranking fish in the food chain. Sardines are exceptionally high in vitamins B12, D, calcium, and selenium, essential minerals.

Atlantic mackerel

Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, niacin, selenium, and vitamin B12 are abundant in this oily fish. Remember that mackerel is often marketed preserved in large amounts of salt, so soak and rinse it well before cooking and eating to minimize sodium levels.

Better Seafood Selections

Despite having moderate mercury levels, these fish offer between 100 and 250 mg of omega-3s per day and are rated as “excellent options” by Seafood Watch:

  • Tuna Albacore (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Black Cod/Sablefish (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

Last Thoughts

  • Finding safer seafood may be difficult since several variables must be considered, such as sustainability, nutritional value, mercury levels, and the danger of contamination by pollutants, pesticides, or toxic chemicals.
  • In addition to avoiding the fish mentioned above that should never be eaten, you may utilize the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app to discover more sustainable options.
  • Support Seafood Watch restaurants and business partners in their efforts to obtain and invest in more sustainable, nutritious seafood.
  • You may also sign up for Food and Water Watch’s newsletter. In addition, the fish sector is closely monitored by the non-profit monitoring organization.
  • Finally, choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Pacific sardines, and Atlantic mackerel when you do consume fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the four fish you should never eat?

A: Shark, King Crab, Bluefin Tuna from the Atlantic, Grouper.

What seafood is dangerous to eat?

A: Fish, shrimp, lobster, oysters, clams, mussels.

What is the dirtiest seafood to eat?

A: Oysters are bivalve mollusk that live in saltwater and feed on plankton. They filter the water as they swim, which is how they obtain their food.

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