Seafood Safe for You and the Oceans

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Fish and shellfish are good sources of protein and iodine and lower in saturated fat than most meats, including chicken and turkey. Some varieties of fish and shellfish, including Albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, also provide omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglycerides (fats in the blood which raise the risk of heart disease) and prevent inflammation which plays a major role in the aging process as well as various health disorders.

Most people would benefit by eating at least 2 servings of fish a week. Substitute baked, broiled, poached, or grilled fish for meat. Try to avoid breaded or fried fish when possible, to reduce dietary fat and calories.

Worldwide, the demand for seafood is increasing. Many populations of the large fish have been overfished. As a result, the United States now imports over 80% of our seafood to meet the demand. Unfortunately, global demand is also promoting destructive fishing and fish-farming practices.

A “Complete List of Seafood Eco-Ratings” was posted by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) on 10/03/08 and updated on 05/08/12. The EDF list represents one of the best sources of information regarding seafood currently deemed safe for consumption, as well as for the ocean’s health and sustainability. Note that some fish of the same species may contain more environmental contaminants than others, depending on the geographic location and waters in which they are caught.

Try to select “Eco-Best”seafood which is abundant, well-managed, and caught or farmed using environmentally-friendly practices from the following alphabetized list to reduce your intake of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other contaminants:

  • Abalone: All farmed abalone
  • Alewife
  • Anchovies
  • Arctic Char: farmed*
  • Barramundi from U.S.
  • Catfish from U.S.
  • Clams: Both farmed and soft-shell
  • Cobia: U.S. farmed
  • Cod: Pacific (U.S. non-trawled), AK cod caught by longline
  • Crab: Both Dungeness and Stone
  • Crawfish from U.S.
  • Croaker: Atlantic, not caught by trawl
  • Haddock: from U.S. caught by hook and line
  • Halibut: Pacific caught in Alaska and Canada
  • Herring from Atlantic*
  • Lobster: California spiny lobster (U.S.) and caribbean spiny lobster (U.S.)
  • Mackerel: Atlantic mackerel from Canada
  • Mahimahi: U.S., caught by troll/pole
  • Mullet: Striped mullet
  • Mussels: Farmed
  • Oysters: Farmed (eco-best) or wild (eco-ok)*
  • Sablefish/black cod from Alaska and Canada*
  • Salmon: Wild Alaskan salmon (canned, fresh, or prefrozen)*
  • Sardines: Pacific sardines from U.S.*
  • Scallops: Farmed bay scallops
  • Sea urchin from Canada
  • Shrimp: Pink shrimp from Oregon, spot prawns from Canada
  • Smelt
  • Spotted seatrout from Louisiana and Florida
  • Striped bass: farmed (Limit consumption of wild striped bass due to concerns about mercury or other contaminants)
  • Squid: Longfin from U.S.
  • Tilapia from U.S.
  • Trout: Rainbow (U.S.farmed)*
  • Tuna: Albacore from Canada and U.S. Pacific (troll/pole); Skipjack and yellowfin from U.S. Atlantic caught by troll/pole* **
  • Wreckfish

*Fish high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in environmental contaminants include: Arctic char, Atlantic herring, oysters, sablefish/black cod, canned salmon, wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific sardines from the U.S., farmed rainbow trout, albacore tuna from the U.S. or Canada, and yellowfin tuna from the U.S. Atlantic caught by troll/pole.

**Fish high in mercury or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) include: All bluefish, Chilean sea bass, blue crab, summer flounder , lingcod, blue marlin from Hawaii, striped marlin, opah, orange roughy, yellow perch from Lake Huron or Lake Ontario, rockfish, wild salmon from California, Oregon, and Washington, farmed or Atlantic salmon, mutton snapper, Atlantic and imported wild sturgeon, U.S. and imported swordfish, tilefish, canned white/albacore and bluefin tuna, wahoo, and walleye.


  1. “Complete List of Seafood Eco-Ratings: Which fish are safe for you and the oceans?” Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010. General Information: (800) 684-3322. Copyright © 2011 Environmental Defense Fund. All Rights Reserved. Posted: 10/03/08; Updated: 05/08/12. (Source:
  2. “Seafood Selector: Fish choices that are good for you and the ocean.” Downloadable and printable Pocket Guide (PDF). Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 06/2011. (Source:
  3. “Safe Seafood Selector.” Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 05/02/12.(Source:
  4. “Seafood Watch: National Sustainable Seafood Guide.” Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. January 2012. (Source:


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