It used to be that eating seafood and fish regularly was a pretty safe nutritional bet. Fish was packed with protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids…Unfortunately, due to our continued poisoning of the environment and the Fukushima power plant meltdown, many fish are now loaded with unsafe levels of mercury and radiation.All fish, every single fish on this planet, have some level of mercury; however, some have much higher levels than others.

1. Shark

This means any type of meat eating shark such as Longfin Mako, Shortfin Mako, Blacktip, or common Thresher shark. Because sharks are at or near the top of the food chain, they consume other types of fish as their main source of food. This means whatever mercury and contaminates are in the fish they eat accumulate in the bodies of sharks.

It’s ironic that many people eat shark products such as soups, health drinks, pill supplements, and even shark steaks, believing that shark is a healthy meat. In fact, this terrible misconception is so prevalent that one of the world’s largest insurance companies added shark steaks, while at the famous Taste of Chicago food fest, as one of their recommendations as a “healthy” food.  In fact, if you read the numerous studies available on this subject, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that eating shark, or taking supplements in any way, will provide any medicinal benefits whatsoever.

2. King Mackerel

This voracious predator is definitely on the no-no list. Even though the Florida Department of Health Secretary Robert G. Brooks believes that it’s “virtually impossible” to get enough mercury from this fish because they are caught far out in the ocean, he’s wrong. Mercury builds up in the body. The findings are consistent and King Mackerel contain high levels of mercury.

Researchers suspect that mercury, which comes mainly from industrial sources such as waste incinerators, the manufacturing of chlorine, and coal plants, is being spread through the air and eventually ends up in the water.

The longer the lifespan of the fish, as well as the larger it grows, the more mercury that fish will accumulate in their lifetime. King Mackerel have a migratory path that runs from South Florida to North Carolina.

King Mackerel, sometimes called Kingfish, are a common part of sport fishing. Although some authorities feel that it’s safe to eat this fish if it’s less than 33 inches long and weighs 10 pounds or less.

3. Tilefish

There are a great variety of this species of fish, and the EPA makes no distinction between them. So when they warn people, especially small children, women, and pregnant women, to avoid eating it, you better just skip all varieties to be safe.

Atlantic tilefish, a yummy predator that ranges from the Gulf of Mexico to New England, appears to be OK, but unless you know for certain exactly which species you are eating, you are better off just writing this one off.

Tilefish, despite the warnings about excessive mercury contamination, is often seen on restaurant menus. Tilefish are popular because it’s a mild tasting, white meat fish that has a flavor similar to crabs or lobsters and tends to be a little sweet.

4. Spanish Mackerel

This is another mackerel that’s contaminated, and like the King Mackerel, it’s due to its large size. The Atlantic Spanish Mackerel is another migratory fish that goes to the Northern Gulf of Mexico in springtime and returns to south Florida, then the Western Gulf of Mexico in the fall. Even with this migratory pattern, they can be found from the Yucatan of Mexico all the way to the Cape Cod of Massachusetts.

Spanish Mackerel are actually related to tuna.  They can grow to three feet in length and because they live more closely to the shores, they can easily become contaminated by mercury that is being released into the ocean via slow moving coastal rivers.

5. Orange Roughy

Orange roughy, which are part of the slimehead family (sounds tasty, right?) can take as long as 40 years to reach full maturity. Amazingly, these fish can live as long as 150 years! This means that, besides being easily overfished, they have many years to accumulate mercury and other toxins into their flesh. Orange roughy live in the deep waters off the Western Pacific Ocean, Eastern Atlantic ocean, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the Eastern Pacific off Chile. Although they are actually a deep brick-red color, their flesh fades to a yellow orange after death, hence their name.

Because of their very long lifespan, orange roughly can accumulate huge amount of mercury within its flesh. Regular consumption of orange roughy can have seriously adverse effects on your health. On top of that, compared to other fish, orange roughy is not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, so you would be wise to choose another type of fish. Make safer choices from the “safer” list at the end of this article.

6. Chilean Sea Bass

As if it’s not bad enough that this fish is contaminated with higher levels of mercury than the United States, and most other countries, feel is dangerously unsafe, they have also been hunted to the brink of extinction. If you see Chilean Sea Bass listed for sale, it’s either a different type of fish with an erroneous label, or it has been caught illegally. In fact, Greenpeace states that, unless fishing practices change, and people stop eating this fish, Chilean Sea Bass could become extinct within five years’ time.

By the way, there technically is no Chilean Sea Bass. This is a marketing makeover name because many people, especially Americans, find its true name a bit distasteful. Chilean Sea Bass are actually called Patagonian Toothfish.

7. Pacific Ocean Perch

Mercury does more than accumulate in fish; it also accumulates in the human body. This bioaccumulation in seafood carries over to human beings, where it can result in mercury poisoning. In human controlled studies of the ecosystems of fish, which are generally done for market production of a wanted species of seafood, results clearly show that mercury rises through the food chain from the fish that consume plankton, which are eaten by larger fish, which are consumed by even larger fish. Each succession of fish absorbs the mercury that came from each fish that was consumed by the previous fish.

Pacific Ocean perch is commonly served in many restaurants as well as being caught by sports fishermen.

8. Imported Catfish

We don’t mean the catfish that your Uncle Joe catches on Sunday afternoons down at the local lake. We are referring to imported catfish. Almost 90 percent of the catfish that is imported to America comes from Vietnam, where they commonly use antibiotics that have been banned for use in the USA. In fact, the two types of Vietnamese catfish that are commonly sold in the US, Swai and Basa, really aren’t catfish at all, at least not by government standards, which means that these fish aren’t held up to the same inspection laws that other imported catfish are.

If your Uncle Joe can’t catch enough catfish to keep you satisfied, be sure that you buy domestic, farm-raised catfish, which, for the most part, is responsibly farmed and super plentiful, so it should be inexpensive as well. You could also try Asian carp, which tastes very much like catfish and is also super plentiful.

9. Atlantic Cod

It gets confusing sometimes, whether to eat fish from the Pacific or the Atlantic, but it really does make a difference. Everyone feels badly about adding this to the “do not eat” list, because New England fishermen rely on this fish for their economic livelihood, but besides being contaminated with mercury, the chronic mismanagement of this fish by the National Fisheries Services has placed this fish just one step above making the endangered species list. Until this fish species recovers its numbers, eat Pacific cod, which is still extremely plentiful and not nearly as contaminated.

If you love good old fashioned fish and chips (and almost all of these recipes use cod) then opt for Pacific cod. Tastes the same and is a better healthy choice. If you regularly use frozen fish sticks or fish fillets, read the label and choose Pacific cod until the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species says that Atlantic cod is safe to consume once more.

10. American Eel

American Eel is sometimes referred to as silver eel or even yellow eel. This fish, which is most commonly found in sushi restaurants, found its way here due to high levels of contamination from both mercury and PCB’s. Unfortunately, this tasty fish is also suffering from more than just pollution, but overfishing as well. If you love the taste of eel, avoid the poisons and contamination and choose either Atlantic caught squid, or even Pacific caught squid, as both taste almost exactly the same, but are plentiful and have low contamination levels. Mercury can impair the nervous system and brain development, especially in infants, young children, and developing fetuses.

Although the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act was supposed to help the FDA better monitor fish farms and imported fish to be sure that they meet certain standards, lack of funding means this may or may not happen, so you will need to do some research on your own and avoid dangerously contaminated, overharvested fish such as American Eel.

 

 

 

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March 22, 2017