Top 10 Most Dangerous Fish to Eat

For some, a healthy serving of seafood is one of the tastiest meals around. Fresh fish also has a reputation for containing healthy proteins and fats. While the health benefits of eating fish are real, some serious dangers come with eating certain fish species. Below, you can learn about the ten most dangerous fish to eat. 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Fish to Eat

From Chilean sea bass to slimy eels, here are ten fish you don’t want to take a bite out of: 

1. Blowfish

Let’s begin our list with a form of seafood that is most likely to kill you quickly. Blowfish is a delicacy in Japan that often goes by the name fagu. 

There are several organs in a blowfish that contain deadly toxins. To safely serve blowfish, a highly-skilled chef must remove those organs carefully. Even a small mistake could be fatal for the person eating the dish. 

If you are unfortunate enough to accidentally ingest one of the poisonous parts of a blowfish, there is little of survival. Currently, there is no known antidote to the poison.

Eating blowfish is not worth the risk. Even when the chef is careful in the preparation phase, mistakes are possible. So, if you decide to try blowfish, know that you are putting your life in serious jeopardy.

2. Live Octopus

You may be surprised to find that in some areas of the world, eating live fish is somewhat normal. Specifically, a serving of live octopus is common in parts of East Asia. 

The risks of eating octopus are different than the risks associated with eating other fish on this list. Mainly, the concern does not arise from high mercury levels or questionable farming practices.

Instead, the main problem with eating a live octopus is a bit more obvious. Since the octopus is still alive, it can move freely. It also has powerful suction cups. These two factors make it very easy for a large piece of live octopus to get stuck in your throat as you eat it. 

This is no unfounded concern. In fact, one woman stopped breathing and eventually died after attempting to eat a live octopus. 

3. Eel

Eel is not the most popular seafood around, but it remains common in certain regional dishes. For example, sushi is one of the dishes in which you can expect to find eel regularly.

When an eel is alive, it spends a large part of its life taking in substances that are detrimental to human health. These substances can include chemicals like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCBs are human-made chemicals that were once useful in electronic devices. After it became clear that PCBs are harmful, their use has been banned in the United States.

The PCBs and other harmful substances found in eel are especially harmful to women and children. But the safest approach is for all people to avoid eating eel. 

4. Chilean Sea Bass

If you have any concerns about mercury poisoning, Chilean sea bass is one of the fish species that you need to avoid specifically. This fish happens to have exceptionally high mercury levels even compared to other species on this list. 

Chilean sea bass is a predatory fish, but it is also a bottom feeder. That leads to two main causes for concern for anyone hoping to eat this fish.

First, as a predatory fish, it is easier for Chilean sea bass to intake mercury from its prey. Second, bottom feeders often consume waste from other fish as they search the ocean floor for food. 

Despite these concerns, Chilean sea bass remains very popular. The cause for this is the fact that the meat has a very agreeable flavor. That flavor is so popular that commercial fishermen have overfished Chilean sea bass to the point that the species may go extinct. 

5. Shark

Shark is another fish that does not typically appear on the average weeknight’s dinner plate. But when traveling outside the US or visiting a restaurant, finding shark on the menu is not uncommon. 

There are several problems related to eating shark. Many of these issues relate to the barbaric practice of shark finning, which contributes to dwindling shark populations. But there are health risks, as well. 

When it comes to eating shark, the primary health issue is the high level of mercury their meat contains. This is a widespread issue present in many kinds of fish. 

The mercury issue is especially bad with sharks because sharks are almost always at the top of their respective food chains. That means they not only absorb mercury on their own. They also absorb the mercury of all the fish they eat and the fish that those fish eat. The end result is that sharks absorb mercury that comes from fish at all levels of the food chain.

6. Swordfish

The issue with swordfish is a lot like the problem of eating shark. Both these animals are top predators in their ecosystems.

As high-level predators, swordfish absorb mercury from all of the sea creatures that are below them in the food chain. Naturally, this leads to high levels of mercury in swordfish meat. 

Mercury levels only continue to rise throughout a swordfish’s life. Because of this, health officials recommend eating swordfish in very limited amounts. 

Women and children should be very wary of eating swordfish as the mercury affects them the most. But when in doubt, it is best for everyone to avoid eating swordfish. 

7. Salmon

Many will be discouraged to find salmon on this list of dangerous fish to eat as it is one of the most popular seafood options. But, unfortunately, salmon shares many of the same risks as other fish you should avoid eating.

High mercury levels are just the beginning of the risk factors that come with eating salmon. There are a few other harmful substances that are commonly present in salmon meat. 

Salmon can contain numerous toxins, including arsenic and PCBs. This is mainly a result of low-quality conditions in salmon farms throughout the world. 

Along with these poisons, there are other problems with salmon fish farming. For instance, in an effort to increase production, fish farmers will have dozens of salmon living in a confined area. As a result, farm-raised salmon spends most of its life swimming in its own fecal matter and the waste of the other fish nearby.

8. Tilapia

Tilapia is one of the most commonly consumed fish in the United States. This fish has a mild flavor that responds well to a variety of spices and cooking methods. Along with this, tilapia also contains high volumes of protein and other nutrients.

Tilapia proves to be a good source of both macro and micronutrients. But there are some significant risks to eating tilapia.

The first issue relates to the methods for raising tilapia. Especially in foreign fish farms, tilapia often ingests chemicals and fecal matter as a part of its regular diet. These can easily pass into your body as you eat the fish.

There are other inherent issues with tilapia that do not arise from inferior farming methods. The most notable of these is that tilapia contains unhealthy fats that can lead to heart disease. 

9. Tuna

Tuna comes in many varieties and is one of the most common fish that Americans eat on a daily basis. This popularity comes from the widespread availability of tuna and the nutrients present in the meat. 

Tuna does serve as a healthy source of good fats. But the benefit of eating those fats does not always outweigh the risks associated with eating tuna. 

The issue with eating tuna is that it has high levels of mercury. The kind of mercury present in tuna can cause many complications for pregnant women and their infants. 

Albacore tuna is one of the most prevalent tuna varieties in the supermarket as this is the primary ingredient in many canned tunas. This kind of tuna is especially high in mercury and is, therefore, one of the most dangerous. 

10. Catfish

It is unfair to say that all catfish are dangerous to eat. But if you choose to make catfish a part of your meal, you should do so with extreme caution.

As with other fish on this list, the source of your catfish is of critical importance. If you know that your catfish came from an American fish farm, you are likely safe.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of catfish on the market come from fish farms outside the United States. These international fish farms do not follow the same standards of quality and cleanliness that ensure a fish is safe for the general public.

Catfish raised abroad often come into contact with subpar water conditions. These conditions can include high levels of antibiotics that enter the fish’s system and pass to yours upon consumption.

(You might also be interested in reading about The Most Expensive Fish to Eat)

A Few Other Dangerous Fish to Eat Worthy Of Mention

The list of dangerous fish to eat does not end there. In fact, there are many other fish species that you limit in your diet or avoid completely. Here are some of the dangerous fish to eat that just missed making it onto our top ten list:

  • Grouper
  • Mackerel
  • Tilefish 

(Fishing in freshwaters? Try reading; The Best Eating Freshwater Fish)

Wrap-Up

There is a surprising amount of risk factors when eating seafood. Many of these health risks are the result of bad farming practices and high levels of mercury. But as you have seen from our list, there are other detrimental factors to consider.

A good first step in creating a healthy diet is to know what foods to avoid. Hopefully, this list will help you decide which fish are okay to eat and which are too dangerous. 

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