Since many organic compounds tend to accumulate in the fat tissue, this fish has a higher propensity toward contamination with respect to the wild salmon. Studies confirm that the population density in the fish farms leads to a high concentration of pollutants which are found in the final meat product. Of particular concern is the presence of cancer-causing chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), dieldrin, toxaphene, dioxins, as well as neurotoxins such as mercury which affect many other fish species.


To make things more frightening, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the approval of a genetically engineered salmon designed to grow to full size in half the time.


Optimal chooses


This list includes fishes that are farmed or harvested sustainably

Acceptable options


These fishes can be added to your diet although their health or environmental impact are debated

Fish to Avoid


These fish choices are known to present health or environmental hazards

Arctic Char (farmed)

Barramundi (US farmed)

Catfish (US farmed)

Clams (farmed)

Cobia (US farmed)

Cod: Pacific (Alaska longline)

Crab: Dungeness, Stone

Halibut: Pacific

Lobster: Spiny (US)

Mussels (farmed)

Oysters (farmed)

Sablefish/Black Cod

(Alaska or BC)

Salmon (Alaska wild)

Scallops (farmed off-bottom)

Shrimp, Pink (OR)

Striped Bass (farmed or wild)*

Tilapia (US farmed)

Trout: Rainbow (farmed)

Tuna: Albacore including canned

white tuna (troll/pole, US and BC)

Tuna: Skipjack including canned

light tuna (troll/pole)

Caviar, Sturgeon (US farmed)

Clams (wild)

Cod: Pacific (US trawled)

Crab: Blue*, King (US), Snow

Flounders, Soles (Pacific)

Herring: Atlantic

Lobster: American/Maine

Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (US)

Oysters (wild)

Pollock (Alaska wild)

Salmon (WA wild)*

Sablefish/Black Cod (CA, OR and WA)

Scallops: Sea

Shrimp (US, Canada)


Swai, Basa (farmed)

Swordfish (US)*

Tilapia (Central America, farmed)

Tuna: Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole)

Tuna: Canned white/Albacore

(troll/pole except US and BC)

Caviar, Sturgeon* (imported wild)

Chilean Seabass/Toothfish*

Cobia (imported farmed)

Cod: Atlantic, imported Pacific

Flounders, Halibut, Soles (Atlantic)


Lobster: Spiny (Brazil)

Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)

Marlin: Blue*, Striped*


Orange Roughy*

Salmon (CA, OR* wild)

Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic)*

Sharks*, Skates

Shrimp (imported)

Snapper: Red

Swordfish (imported)*

Tilapia (Asia farmed)

Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin


Tuna: Bluefin*and Tongol

Tuna: Canned (except troll/pole)*

* Consumption of these items should be limited due to concerns of contamination from mercury or other chemicals


In the interest of aiding the consumer, several organizations compiled lists that categorize fish species according to their health and environmental impact. This year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium distributed 6 useful, regional pocket guides to help the consumer choose fish consciously. The National Sustainable Seafood Guide, reproduced below, groups fishes common in North America according to their health/environment "friendliness". Other lists for specific geographic regions of the US are available for download.


So what about those of us who can't resist sushi and want to make the right choice at the restaurant? The scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have thought about that too. The Sushi Seafood Watch pocket lists common sushi fish to help you make an educated pick when you scroll through the restaurant menu. And for those who can't stop typing on their smart phone when they are eating, these lists are available as a useful iPhone app.

Wild salmon with knife

Taking these studies into account, the experts' recommendations on salmon consumption vary. While some nutritionists think that the benefit of eating omega-3 rich fish far outweigh the risk of contamination, others consider even one fish meal per month already a health hazard. Of particular concern is the consumption of contaminated fish by pregnant women.


Government agencies (the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the FDA, and the American Hearth Association (AHA)) also have conflicting recommendations which probably arise from their different legislative mandates.

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