Avoid These Fins, Your Life May Depend On It

We’ve talked about fish and seafood and how important they are to your diet. We’ve encouraged you to seek out and consume sustainable shellfish. But there are problems with eating more fish. Not only are many fish stocks being over-consumed, but with the increasing addition of mercury to the oceans because of the burning of coal, many fish present a health issue.

Some environmental organizations are advocating taking fish off the menu, but that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Still, we should heed the warnings of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The fund feels that many popular fish are being depleted. It also says those same fish are highly contaminated with mercury and PCBs.

Here are some fish you should avoid and why.

  1. Bluefin Tuna. These are very large ocean-going fish that are highly prized in many cultures, especially Japan, where they sell for $177,000 per fish. They are so contaminated with mercury that many environmental and health organizations have recommended eating absolutely none of them. Fortunately, if you’re a sushi lover, there are plenty of other fish that can be used.
  2. Chilean Sea Bass (also called Patagonian Toothfish). Remember when this was the hit of all fine dining restaurants and quite a few of the not so fine? Chefs and eaters alike loved the buttery meat. There is one fishery that’s producing high quality farm-raised sea bass, but most have been fished to near extinction. Also, the methods used to catch them, trawlers and longlines, have damaged the sea floor and hooked many seabirds.
  3. Like the bluefin tuna, Groupers have high levels of mercury in the flesh. These are very large fish that can live to be 40 years old. However, they reproduce only during a short period in their lives.
  4. A fish that’s become quite popular is Monkfish. It hasn’t been popular before because it’s a very ugly fish. It is a bottom-feeder that looks like a really big catfish. Because of its diet, it absorbs a lot of mercury and PCBs.
  5. Orange Roughy is another popular fish that’s prone to overfishing. Like groupers, this fish lives a long life but is slow to reproduce. They live for 100 years or more, which means there’s a high chance it has a lot of mercury in its flesh.
  6. Most farm-raised salmon, also called Atlantic salmon, are raised in overcrowded conditions just like most pigs in feed lots. Their pens are rife with parasites and diseases which threaten wild salmon swimming past the farms to their spawning grounds. They are fed an unnatural fishmeal containing high amounts of antibiotics. The lack of open water also means they contain high amounts of PCBs.

This doesn’t mean that all fish are contaminated or in danger. There are many species that are thriving and highly sustainable.