Fish can be a delicious and healthy part of our diets, but not all fish are created equal. Some popular choices are now known to be problematic for various reasons, ranging from environmental concerns to health risks that might surprise you. Overfishing, contamination, and unsustainable practices have put certain species on the “do not eat” list. Before you fire up the grill or order that sushi, it’s worth taking a moment to learn which fish you might want to steer clear of for the sake of your health and the planet.

A spread of raw seafood on a dark background with ice.
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A piece of shark on a wooden surface.
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Sharks are top predators in their ecosystems, and their declining numbers due to overfishing can have cascading effects on ocean health. Moreover, shark meat can contain dangerously high levels of mercury, posing a health risk. Alternatives like sardines or mackerel offer safer, more sustainable sources of similar nutrients.

Imported Farmed Shrimp

Fresh prawns on ice at a seafood market.
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Imported farmed shrimp often comes from countries where regulations on antibiotics and pollutants are lax, leading to unhealthy and unsustainable practices. These conditions can harm local ecosystems and potentially affect your health. Instead, look for shrimp certified by environmental organizations or opt for wild-caught varieties.

Imported Catfish

Pan-seared fish fillet with lemon and parsley garnish on a white plate.
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Much of the imported catfish available in the market is raised in conditions that are far from ideal, with high risks of contamination from the waters they’re farmed in. To avoid these risks, choose catfish sourced from domestic farms that follow stricter environmental and health standards.

Atlantic Cod

Pan-seared fish with a roasted tomato on top, served over greens and diced tomatoes with potatoes on the side.
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The demand for Atlantic cod has led to significant overfishing, depleting its populations. This not only threatens the species but also disrupts marine ecosystems. Pacific cod from sustainably managed fisheries is a responsible alternative that doesn’t sacrifice taste or texture.

Chilean Sea Bass

Pan-seared fish fillet served on black rice with grilled eggplant, carrots, and a green herb sauce.
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Once a luxurious menu item, Chilean sea bass is now a symbol of overfishing and environmental disregard. Illegal fishing practices further exacerbate its decline. Eco-friendly alternatives like Alaskan halibut provide a similar rich, buttery flavor without the environmental guilt.

Orange Roughy

A plate of fried fish with broccoli and brussels sprouts.
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Orange roughy’s long lifespan and late maturity make it highly susceptible to overfishing, which has led to significant population declines. The fish is also known for accumulating high levels of mercury over its lengthy life. Healthier, more sustainable options include Pacific halibut or tilapia from responsibly managed farms.

King Mackerel

A plate of fish with sauce and rice.
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King Mackerel is a fish to steer clear of because it’s loaded with mercury. This heavy metal is especially risky for pregnant women and young kids, as it can mess with kids’ development and even impact adult health, by impacting brain functions and heart health. Since King Mackerel is a big, predatory fish, it picks up more mercury the longer it lives, making it a particularly bad choice for your plate.

Imported King Crab

Fresh king crab legs on ice in a woven basket.
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Much of the king crab sold in stores comes from Russia, where regulations and sustainability practices are often lacking. This contributes to overfishing and environmental degradation. Alaska king crab is a more sustainable choice, subject to strict U.S. fishing regulations and sustainability practices.

Atlantic Salmon

Grilled salmon fillet served on a bed of spinach with cherry tomatoes and a slice of lemon.
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Farmed Atlantic salmon often comes from operations that can pollute waterways and spread diseases to wild salmon populations. There are concerns about the use of antibiotics and other chemicals. Opt for wild-caught salmon from the Pacific, or look for farmed options certified by rigorous environmental standards.


Fresh fish fillets on a wooden board with lemon, herbs, and spices nearby.
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While tilapia is a popular and affordable option, it’s often farmed in crowded conditions that can lead to disease and pollution. However, when sourced from responsible farms, tilapia can be a sustainable choice. Look for certifications that ensure good environmental and health practices.


Swordfish on a plate with salad and lemons.
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Swordfish are overfished in many parts of the world, and like shark, they accumulate high levels of mercury. Their decline has significant ecological implications. For a healthier and more sustainable option, choose smaller, lower-mercury fish such as trout or anchovies.


A bowl of unagi don (grilled eel over rice) garnished with a sprig of herbs, accompanied by slices of cucumber and a bowl of soup.
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Eels are flagged for avoidance because they’re overfished and crucial for ecosystem health, aiding in water purification by spreading mussels in habitats like the Delaware River. Moreover, their tendency to accumulate toxins, including PCBs and flame retardants, poses significant health risks, with advisories in certain areas recommending limiting consumption to just one eel annually.

10 Dangerous Fish with High Mercury Levels and Safer Swaps

A group of fish on ice with a lemon slice.
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Mercury levels in seafood can be a hidden danger that many people overlook. Some popular fish contain high amounts of mercury, posing a risk if consumed too frequently. But there’s good news — safer and equally tasty alternatives are available. Here are the dangerous fish with high mercury levels so you know what to avoid and can find some alternatives to enjoy instead.

Read it Here: 10 Dangerous Fish with High Mercury Levels and Safer Swaps

9 Things They’re Not Telling You About Farmed Salmon

A group of orange fish swim together in sunlit water with visible bubbles.
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Farmed salmon might seem like a convenient and affordable choice, but there are some serious downsides you should know about. From health risks to environmental concerns, the impact of farmed salmon goes far beyond what you see at the grocery store. Many people are unaware of the contaminants, antibiotics, and unethical farming practices involved. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to think twice before adding farmed salmon to your cart.

Read it Here: 9 Things They’re Not Telling You About Farmed Salmon

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Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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1 Comment

  1. Better define “sustainable.” Trawlers in Alaskan waters and just outside those waters are allowed a huge amount of “bycatch” which includes salmon, halibut, crab (so much for their so-called midwater nets), all kinds of other fish that are not on their list which is often pollock, oh… and mammals from Orca to seals and sea lions. Most are thrown overboard, dead. Many peoples of Alaska are now not allowed to subsistence fish their traditional rivers because, for instance, there are virtually no king salmon.