Five fish you shouldn't eat

By: Irene Lorenzo
Date posted: 31 October 2017

90% of the world’s fish stocks are either fully or overexploited, and scientists are concerned about the collective threats facing our seas.

Swordfish by elxeneize/Flickr
© Swordfish by elxeneize/Flickr

The good news is that there’s still time to do something about it. Many fish stocks and habitats can come back to life if they are managed sustainably and given time to recover.

If we stop feeding demand for seafood from badly managed or damaging fisheries and fish farms, we can incentivise improvements.

The easiest action you can take is to visit or download our Good Fish Guide and start making the right choice by picking green-rated fish!

To make things easier, we’ve picked five red-rated fish that you shouldn’t buy if you live in the UK.

#1 Grey mullet

Mullet are plump silvery fish with large scales and flat wide mouths. They prefer coastal and estuarine habitats and can often be seen swimming lazily close to the surface in harbours and marinas. Unfortunately, since they are slow-growing, slow to mature sexually and only a proportion of the stock breeds in any one year, they are especially vulnerable to overfishing. No need to mull over grey mullet, say no thanks!

#2 Mediterranean swordfish

Would you like some sea turtle with your swordfish? We hope not. Certain swordfish capture methods are associated with the incidental catch of sharks, sea turtles and seabirds so by consuming swordfish you are affecting the fate of other vulnerable species as well. Furthermore, recent assessments suggest that swordfish themselves are not doing so well: they are being badly overfished and scientists advise catch needs to be greatly reduced to give them time to recover. If you wish to consume swordfish, other swordfish fisheries are in much better shape.

#3 Wild seabass

Seabass are rapid-swimming predators, prized by anglers and chefs alike. They grow slowly, are late to mature and aggregate in the same place every summer when it’s time to reproduce. This combination makes them very vulnerable to over-exploitation and localised depletion. The total weight of the fish in a stock that are old enough to spawn is now at its lowest observed level for the population around the UK, which is why scientists advise that there should be zero catch in 2017. If you wish to consume seabass, farmed seabass is currently a better alternative!

#4 European eel

Did you know European eels are more endangered than snow leopards? They are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN’s Red List and their populations are at an all-time low. Urgent action is needed to let them recover, since eels are exploited in all life stages and those that are fished do not even get the chance to breed. Scientists advise that manmade causes of mortality (habitat alteration, barriers to passage, pollution, recreational and commercial fishing) must be reduced to as close to zero as possible, until their status improves. Not even farmed European eel is OK to eat, as the process involves catching juvenile eels from the wild and growing them in captivity.

#5 Wild Atlantic halibut

The largest and longest lived of all flatfish is heavily overfished and has actually been listed as an Endangered species in the IUCN Red List since 1996. Avoid eating wild caught Atlantic halibut unless certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Atlantic halibut farmed in onshore tanks is another more sustainable alternative for this species and the related Pacific halibut species also has green ratings on the Good Fish Guide.

For more information, download our pocket Good Fish Guide, get the Good Fish Guide app or buy a box of them from our shop to distribute.

Actions you can take

  1. Download our award winning 'Good Fish Guide App'.
  2. Download the Good Fish Guide .pdf
  3. Download our guide showing how fish are farmed
  4. View the Good Fish Guide online
  5. Download our guide showing how fish are caught

Did you know?…

The ocean sustains livelihoods and provides food for millions of people

Over the last century, we have lost around 90% of the biggest predatory oceanic fish, such as tuna, swordfish and sharks

In the UK we eat 486,000 tonnes of seafood a year, which is 8.2kg per person

Fish2Fork Diner Ratings

We’re fishing for your input! Fish2fork in partnership with MCS needs your help in changing the way restaurants think about their seafood.

Find out more

Join us today

Help protect our seas, shores and wildlife

Join now