5 Fish that You Should Avoid

· August 26, 2014

Our oceans have become so overfilled with wild fish populations and contaminated with industrial contaminants that trying to figure out what fish are both safe and sustainable can be a difficult job.

The “good fish” lists can change year after year because the existence of these fish decrease every couple of years or for other reasons. But there are other fish that contain dangerous substances. Here are 5 fish that you should avoid eating.

Food & Water Watch, a non-profit company, examined all of the varieties of fish there are today, the way in which they are collected, how certain species are raised, and the levels of toxic contaminants in the fish, like mercury or PCB, as well as the way in which local fishers are supported by fisheries for their economic survival.

1. Imported Catfish

Why is it bad? A large percentage of imported catfish come from Vietnam, where the use of antibiotics prohibited by the European Union and other countries is very common. Also, the two varieties of Vietnamese catfish that are sold in a lot of markets, Swai and Basa, are not technically considered catfish. Therefore, they may not be subjected to the same rule inspection as other imported catfish.

Eat this instead: Choose catfish that are grown in domestic farms. They have been grown responsibly and abundantly, which is why they are one of the best grown fish you can eat. Or try Asian carp, an invasive species with a flavor similar to catfish that is no competition for wild catfish and is putting the ecosystem of the Great Lakes in danger.

2. Caviar

Why is it bad? Beluga and sturgeon caviar captured in the wild are susceptible to overfishing according to the Food & Water Watch report, but the species are also being threatened by an increase in the construction of traps that contaminate the water they live in. All types of caviar come from fish that take a long time to mature, which means that in order for the populations to recover, they need some time.

Eat this instead: If you really love caviar, choose other fish eggs that are in the market or substitute it with cavianne, the substitute for sturgeon caviar. Eating this product can help solve the high demand problem for sturgeon caviar that currently exists.

3. Atlantic Cod

Why is it bad? Atlantic cod populations were destroyed in the 1990’s and are in such turmoil because the species is now a step above being in danger of extinction by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Eat this instead: The good news is that if you like cod, Pacific cod populations are still strong.

4. American Eel


Why is it bad? Also called yellow or silver eel, this fish, which usually ends up on sushi plates, made its way onto the list because it is highly contaminated with PCB and mercury.  It also suffers from a certain amount of contamination and overexploitation.

Eat this instead: If you like the taste of eel, choose captured Atlantic eel or Pacific squid instead.

5. Atlantic Flatfish

Why is it bad? This group of fish include flounder, sole, and halibut, which are captured off the Atlantic coast. They made it onto the list due to high pollution and overfishing that date back to the 1800s. According to Food & Water Watch, the populations of these fish are as low as 1 percent of what is necessary to be considered for sustainable long-term fishing.

Eat this instead: Pacific halibut seems like it would be a good option, but the group also recommends replacing these fish with another white fish with a mild taste, like tilapia.