Love fish but didn’t know that there are some kinds that aren’t safe to eat? You might want to read on. While most fish are a rich source of essential omega 3 fatty acids, there are some that are contaminated by either chemicals or pollutants and can be toxic.
Wondering which ones these could be? Here are 8 fish that you should probably steer clear of and why.
8 Contaminated Fish You Should Avoid
Mercury levels rise as you go up the food chain. The higher fish are on the food chain, the higher the amount of mercury they contain. This is because of what is called bioaccumulation – small plants and animals containing mercury are eaten by fish, which are eaten by even bigger fish. Sharks should be avoided because they are large fish that occupy one among the top spots in the food chain and hence are high in mercury.1 Besides this, they are also often caught accidentally while fishing and discarded as waste because of which their numbers are depleting severely.
2. King Mackerel
Almost all fish and shellfish contain mercury – methylmercury to be specific. Large fish, however, contain more methylmercury than the smaller ones. This is simply because they’ve lived long enough to accumulate a lot of it. King mackerel, which is a large fish, is best avoided because of this very reason, making it loaded with methylmercury.2 Excess mercury may result in poisoning and is most toxic to fetuses and babies. Instead of sharks, choose Atlantic mackerel, which is low in mercury.
3. Orange Roughy
This is another fish that has high mercury levels, so it’s a good idea to avoid eating it.3 Moreover, despite its long life of up to 100 years, its numbers are depleting rapidly because of overfishing and its slow reproductive cycle.
Although this predatory fish is quite popular as seafood, it has been found to have extremely high levels of methylmercury among all large fish.4 It is said to be damaging to the nervous system of unborn fetuses and children.
This type of fish has an innumerable number of species. And although it is a favorite in restaurants because its taste is similar to shellfish like lobsters and crabs, it has mercury in high amounts, which puts it on the list of to-be-avoided fish. While some species like the Atlantic tilefish could be eaten, it’s sometimes hard to identify the species of fish when you’re buying them. So, unless you can figure out for sure that you’re eating the Atlantic tilefish, it’s best to avoid eating all species of tilefish.5
6. Imported Catfish
While catfish caught locally is okay to consume, imported catfish like swai and basa catfish are loaded with banned antibiotics and are hence not suitable for consumption. They are often obtained by farming methods that leave them in waste and sludge and hence requiring antibiotic treatment. Also, some imported catfish varieties like the pangasius catfish are often contaminated with a bacteria that has been commonly known to cause shellfish poisoning. Eating raw or undercooked pangasius catfish has been found to be hazardous.6
7. Albacore Tuna
While tuna is yet another popularly consumed fish, some species are best not eaten too often. Canned tuna is of two types – albacore and canned light. The albacore variety is said to contain more mercury than the canned light kind. So, if you eat albacore tuna, remember to eat no more than 6 ounces.7
8. American Eel
Although this eel is not as contaminated with mercury as larger fish like sharks and king mackerel, it is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which is an industrial chemical harmful to human health.8 This eel easily absorbs and stores contaminants, so it’s not a great idea to eat it. Its numbers are also decreasing drastically because of excessive fishing. 9 Alternatives to the American eel are Atlantic or Pacific squids, which taste similar to the American eel but aren’t as contaminated.
Apart from these contaminated fish, some fish like bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod, Chilean sea bass, and tropical shrimp should be avoided because their numbers are dwindling by the day.
When you crave fish the next time, make sure you avoid these kinds to stay safe and healthy!
|↑1, ↑4, ↑7||What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑2||What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish. United States Environmental Protection Agency.|
|↑3, ↑5||Advice About Eating Fish. U.S. Food & Drug Administration.|
|↑6||Kulawik, Piotr, Władysław Migdał, Florian Gambuś, Ewa Cieślik, Fatih Özoğul, Joanna Tkaczewska, Katarzyna Szczurowska, and Izabela Wałkowska. “Microbiological and chemical safety concerns regarding frozen fillets obtained from Pangasius sutchi and Nile tilapia exported to European countries.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 96, no. 4 (2016): 1373-1379.|
|↑8||Ashley, Jeffrey TF, Richard Horwitz, Joseph C. Steinbacher, and Bruce Ruppel. “A comparison of congeneric PCB patterns in American eels and striped bass from the Hudson and Delaware River estuaries.” Marine pollution bulletin 46, no. 10 (2003): 1294-1308.|
|↑9||Robinet, Tony T., and Eric E. Feunteun. “Sublethal effects of exposure to chemical compounds: a cause for the decline in Atlantic eels?.” Ecotoxicology 11, no. 4 (2002): 265-277.|