Love Seafood? Avoid These 5 Fish That Contain Mercury

Seafood: You either love it or you hate it. The flavor isn’t for everyone, but the nutrients make some serious waves. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and packed with omega-3’s. Yet, fish also contains mercury, so it’s wise to learn which ones are high-risk.

Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the environment, but it’s also released due to pollution. When it collects in water, mercury turns into methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish. Technically, all fish have some mercury. Larger fish that eat other fish – or live longer – are bound to have higher levels. Mercury builds up in the tissue, so there’s no way to “clean” it out!


Why Is Mercury A Concern?

High levels of mercury in your tissues can affect the central nervous system

Methylmercury can also build up in your tissues. It’s a neurotoxin, so it’s dangerous for the central nervous system. With excess buildup, here’s what you might face:1

  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Feeling pins and needles
  • Poor movement coordination
  • Problems with talking, hearing, and walking
  • Muscle weakness

The dangers are even greater for a fetus. If a baby is exposed to methylmercury in the womb, they may have problems with the following:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Language
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Fine motor skills
  • Visual-spatial skills

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need to be extra careful! The same goes if you’re trying to conceive.


Fish With High Levels Of Mercury

To safely enjoy seafood, skip these five types of fish.

1. Swordfish

Swordfish are high in mercury as they eat other fish


Love tropical seafood? Steer clear from swordfish, which can grow up to 7 feet long. They live for 9 years and eat both large and small fish, making the mercury risk very high.2

2. Shark

Sharks live off other fish and hence can be contaminated


Eating shark might get you bragging rights, but they’re high in mercury.3 These big guys rule the food chain! Sharks live off of other fish, many of which may be contaminated.

3. Bigeye Tuna

Avoid sushi as the bigeye tuna fish live long and can contain too much of mercury


Bigeye tuna can live up to 11 years, preying on smaller and potentially contaminated fish.4 It’s known as “ahi” in Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. If you’re out for sushi, be careful.

4. King Mackerel

King mackerel is a high-risk fish that lives for about 14 years


This predator fish is called “king” for a reason. It eats little fish like anchovies, herring, and menhaden. Unsurprisingly, its long lifespan of 14 years makes King Mackerel a high-risk fish.5

5. Tilefish

Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico can be highly contaminated with mercury

Geography matters when it comes to tilefish. Those caught in the Gulf of Mexico have high mercury levels, so stay away. Atlantic tilefish have a bit less, so you can enjoy one serving a week.6

Fish That Are Safe To Eat

Certain fish are at a lower risk of containing mercury


Don’t let mercury scare you. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends enjoying 2 to 3 servings of these low-risk choices each week – with one serving about the size of your palm:7

  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Scallop
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Catfish
  • Freshwater trout
  • Tilapia
  • Whitefish
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Pollock
  • Haddock
  • Flounder
  • Canned light tuna
  • Crab
  • Black sea bass

The following fish have a medium risk. The FDA suggests eating 1 serving a week:

  • Carp
  • Halibut
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Atlantic tilefish
  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Snapper
  • Rockfish
  • Monkfish
  • Ocean striped bass
  • Albacore tuna
  • White tuna

Have you been eating fish with high mercury levels? Rethink your diet and balance your love for seafood with these options over the next few weeks!