What is the best choice of fish?

Fish is a fantastic food.  It is high in omega 3 fatty acids, good quality protein that is easy to digest and is low in saturated fat, however there are a few issues with fish that the consumer needs to be aware of: mercury levels, pesticide build up in the fish, and sustainability issues.

Mercury

Mercury is found in the world’s oceans and high levels are usually because of human pollution.  Fish that eat other fish can have high levels of mercury build up in their system.  It is difficult for the body to eliminate mercury, and if we eat too much high mercury fish, this can build up in our bodies too, which has a negative impact on the nervous system.  Especially of concern is pregnant women eating too much fish and the impact on the unborn child.  Too high mercury levels can lead to developmental delay, memory problems, language development and attention span issues. Mercury build up in adults can lead to nervous system issues, including anxiety.

Avoid the below fish due to high mercury levels:

 Shark (flake in the fish and chip shops)  Ray
 Swordfish  Barramundi
 Gemfish  Orange roughy
 Southern bluefin tuna  Ling
 King Mackerel and Spanish Mackeral  Marlin

http://betterhealthchannel.com.au (produced by Victorian Government – department of health)

The main fish to draw your attention to (other than flake from the local fish and chip shop) is Tuna. Many people eat a tin of tuna every day for lunch believing they are being healthy, however tuna is very high in mercury and should be avoided. I tell my patients, tuna is a once a month fish, not a once a day fish. Sword fish and marlin are once a year fish. It disturbs me how trendy Sword fish is becoming. It is popping up in restaurants all over the place. Please dont order it.

 

Pesticides

Some fish can be high in pesticides so always ask where it comes from before you purchase.  Generally Australian waters tend to be cleaner than other countries, so it is another good reason to buy Australian.

 

Sustainability

The below fish have issues with sustainability and shouldn’t be purchased due to dwindling supplies and over fishing.

Haddock  Hake
Halibut  Ling
Canadian lobster (Australian is best)  Monk fish
Tiger prawn (cold water is a better choice)  Ray
Wild Salmon (Atlantic) (pacific salmon is better choice, as is organically farmed)  Sea bass
Sea bream  Sword fish
Snapper (Australian red snapper is ok)  Trout
Tuna including Blue fin, big eye yellow fin, and skip jack (albacore is ok if certified) Certified = marine stewardship council

It is worth noting that Tuna comes up here again. We are drastically over fishing the oceans for Tuna and need to limit the amount of this fish we eat.

 

Best fish choices (low mercury, high omega 3, and fewer sustainability issues):

Jade Perch  Sardines
Salmon (farmed)  Silver warehou / trevally
Herrings (certified sustainable, or Norwegian)  Mullet (added in as the result of a suggestion below)

All fresh salmon sold in Australia is farmed in Tasmania, which has cleaned up its act substantially in the last few years. Unfortunately it is lower in Omega 3 than its wild cousin, but is still a good choice. Check out my delicious Salmon recipe here.

I hope this information is helpful for you to choose healthy fish to eat 2-3 times per week. I would love to hear what you think.

 

14 thoughts on “What is the best choice of fish?

  1. Thanks – your article was very helpful however I am still concerned about Tasmanian Salmon. The amount of antibiotics they receive, the copper nets (or the chemical used on the nets, vast amount).
    There doesn’t seem to be any perfect choice to make – only a ‘better’ choice out of a list of poor choices. Impossible to get wild caught salmon as far as I know.
    Do the omega 3’s outweigh the mercury? I gather so from the recommendations.

    • Yes and the growth hormones used in farmed salmon makes me puke! The only safe fish is the stuff u catch urself!

    • You cant get wild caught Alaskan salmon in Australia. I wish we could. All fresh salmon sold in Australia is farmed

      • Hi Jackie, I’ve been researching this at length. Yes you can get wild caught Canadian salmon in Australia – well you can in Perth (Myaree) so I imagine it would be easy to find in Melbourne/Sydney. There’s also a place in South Perth that sells organic salmon from NZ and it’s delicious.

        • Thanks for your comment Simone.
          I am so glad you can get wild atlantic salmon in Perth. Lucky you 🙂
          In Melbourne, where I am from the farms are in the oceans off Tasmania, so that is where we get ours from. All fresh salmon at all the major markets I have been to in Melbourne, says produce of Australia on it – which is unfortunately farmed.
          I will be sure to eat as much salmon as I can when I am in Perth next – a beautiful city 🙂

  2. It is a really tough decision that I debate in my head every time I purchase fresh salmon. Yes, you cant get wild caught salmon in Australia that is fresh. Some tinned salmon is wild caught though. Tas Salmon had some bad press a few years ago, but they have changed the way they do things, and are better now, although still not great.
    As for mercury vs omega 3, I would actually choose low mercury over high omega 3. You can always take an omega 3 supplement, but getting rid of mercury once it is in your body is more difficult.
    Thanks for your comment/question Melissa. I appreciate your interest 🙂

  3. Farmed river trout is a safer alternative – significantly lower risk of mercury and copper contamination and lower in fat.

    • thanks for your comment Michelle
      I love learning new things and you have just taught me about the Mullet fish. I have done a bit of googling and it does seem to tick all the boxes so I am going to add it in above. It is lower in omega 3 than some of the others but still not significantly lower.
      Thanks for contributing!!

    • Hi Lyn
      What do you mean when you say ‘at risk’? Fish is a very easy digestible source of protein for the body to use. However there are issues with farmed salmon, as outlined above.
      I think, as with everything, you shouldn’t eat too much of the one thing, so the one type of food every day is probably not a good idea (but I would say the same for any type of food). But if it is the only source of protein you are eating, then I would say keep eating it.
      However, if you are able to eat other sources of protein from other animals, or eggs, then I would do that in preference to only eating salmon.
      It is impossible to say any more than that without knowing your individual health history.

  4. I suspect the environmental footprint of farmed Tasmanian salmon is lower than that of importing Canadian/Alaskan wild salmon.
    Anyway, given how unhealthy shark turns out to be (and swordfish, marlin etc), what is a good flavour substitute (preferably an oily fish)?

    Gemfish (which is a very oily fish) should be okay once a year right?

    • Yes, I would avoid the high mercury fish as much as you can – so once a year is a good choice 🙂 (and absolutely not during pregnancy or breastfeeding). I would not give them to kids ever either.
      I am not sure about a flavour substitute as I love all fish. My palate is not that discerning. I eat salmon once a week and sardines as much as I can as well.

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