Mercury in Seafood

If you choose to consume fish and/or shellfish, opt for sustainable seafood products that are low in mercury and other toxic contaminants; yet, high in the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. According to Seafood Watch, more than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited or collapsed.

Seafood Dirty Dozen

Below is the Food and Water Watch’s Seafood Dirty Dozen — a list of seafood products to avoid due to mercury content and/or sustainability issues.

Dirty Dozen
  • Atlantic cod
  • Atlantic flatfish (Atlantic halibut, flounder and sole)
  • Caviar (especially from beluga and other wild-caught sturgeon)
  • Chilean seabass
  • Eel
  • Farmed salmon (often called “Atlantic salmon”)
  • Imported basa/swai/tra (often labeled “catfish”)
  • Imported farmed shrimp
  • Imported king crab
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Atlantic Bluefin tuna

Mercury in Seafood

Use the list below to identify which seafood products are lowest and highest in mercury.

Lower Mercury
  • Anchovies
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab (Domestic)
  • Crawfish/Crayfish
  • Croaker (Atlantic)
  • Flounder*
  • Haddock (Atlantic)*
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
  • Mullet
  • Oyster
  • Perch (Ocean)
  • Plaice
  • Pollock
  • Salmon (Canned)**
  • Salmon (Fresh)**
  • Sardine
  • Scallop*
  • Shad (American)
  • Shrimp*
  • Sole (Pacific)
  • Squid (Calamari)
  • Tilapia
  • Trout (Freshwater)
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting
Moderate Mercury

Eat six servings or less per month:

  • Bass (Striped, Black)
  • Carp
  • Cod (Alaskan)*
  • Croaker (White Pacific)
  • Halibut (Atlantic)*
  • Halibut (Pacific)
  • Jacksmelt (Silverside)
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish*
  • Perch (Freshwater)
  • Sablefish
  • Skate*
  • Snapper*
  • Tuna (Canned chunk light)
  • Tuna (Skipjack)* Weakfish (Sea Trout)
High Mercury (Avoid)
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper*
  • Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
  • Sea Bass (Chilean)*
  • Tuna (Canned Albacore)
  • Tuna (Yellowfin)*
Highest Mercury (Avoid)

Completely avoid eating:

  • Mackerel (King)
  • Marlin*
  • Orange Roughy*
  • Shark*
  • Swordfish*
  • Tilefish*
  • Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)*

*Fish in trouble. These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods.
**Farmed salmon may contain PCB’s (chemicals with serious long-term health effects).

Mercury Categories

About the mercury-level categories: The categories on the list (least mercury to highest mercury) are determined according to the following mercury levels in the flesh of tested fish.

  • Least mercury: Less than 0.09 parts per million
  • Moderate mercury: From 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million
  • High mercury: From 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million
  • Highest mercury: More than .5 parts per million

Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)

Whenever possible, choose products that are highest in omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Below are posters obtained via the the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Mercury in Seafood Guide

Mercury Seafood Guide

Mercury Seafood Guide

Learn More

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About Dana McDonald

Rebel Dietitian, Dana McDonald, RD, LD - Dana is a registered dietitian in Houston, Texas with more than 10 years of experience and 2 million online fans.