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Every year a list comes out called “The Dirty Dozen” to tell you which fruits and vegetables retain the most pesticide residues and should therefore only be eaten in organic varieties, but now we have a similar list for seafood—and it’s a good thing!  We all know that fish is very healthy and we should all be eating more of it, but practices such as fish farming can sometimes have a detrimental effect on our bodies. These practices can leave their marks on the fish being produced, and in consequence you and I, but they mark the environment as well–and not in a good way.  So, we thought we’d recap this list, in case you didn’t see it, and help all of you stay well-informed about just what fishes should be in your dishes.

Imported Catfish: Stay away from it, but don’t pass up domestic catfish! Here’s the problem with imported catfish: 90% of the catfish imported to the US is from Vietnam, and there they commonly use antibiotics that are banned in the US. When the fish take in those antibiotics, in some way, so do you (even if it’s a tiny amount).  Also, the two main types of “catfish” being imported are called Swai and Basa, but the federal government doesn’t technically consider them catfish, so they are not held to the same standards as other imported catfish. 

You can still enjoy some home-grown, farm-raised catfish though.  The farming practices for catfish in the US are said to be “responsible” by Marianne Cufone, director of the Fish Program at Food and Water Watch.  Eat up.

Cavier:  Caviar from beluga and wild-caught sturgeon make the list for a couple of reasons.  First, the fish supplying the caviar are susceptible to over-fishing and these fish take a long time to mature, so it takes longer for their numbers to rebound.  Another problem: These fish are also being threatened by the building of more dams which pollutes their water.  If you really need a caviar fix, try eggs from American Lake Sturgeon and American Hackleback/American Shovelnose Sturgeon from the Mississippi River system.

Atlantic Cod: Sorry New England fisherman, but these fishies have been fished to near extinction.  Currently, they are just a step above endangered (according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species) due to poor management of fishing by the National Marine Fisheries Service.  If you still need your fish ‘n chips, we understand, but opt for Pacific Cod instead.  They’re numbers are still going strong.

American Eel:  An eel by any other name, like yellow or silver eel, is still an American eel, so don’t be fooled!  These slimy little lovelies usually show up in sushi dishes but you may want to pick another roll next time.  American eels are highly contaminated with PCBs and mercury, and you don’t really want to eat that, do you?

Next week we’ll give you more of the Dirty Dozen, Fish Version, but for now, we’re wondering: Do you eat fish and other seafood often? What are your concerns with the fish and seafood you are piling on your plate?


The information for this article was gleaned directly from Prevention Magazine