The 11 Best Fish to Eat for You and the Environment

Grilled red fish steaks salmon

Grilled red fish steaks salmon | iStock.com/malyugin

It’s no secret how healthy eating fish is, especially twice a week. But what might surprise you is how dangerous the seafood industry is for the environment. Overfishing, pollution, and contamination aren’t things you usually think about when deciding which salmon steak to put in your salad.

Adding fish to your diet is the cornerstone to healthy living. This miracle meat even beats out chicken for healthiest protein source. The best fish to eat offer an omega-3 content chicken can’t compete with. Isn’t there a way to buy more fish while sidestepping the negative impact on the environment?

We found the 11 best fish to eat that meet the guidelines of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Truly healthy living means doing what’s best for the world as well as your body. You don’t want guilt inhibiting the benefits of your new fish diet.

1. Atlantic mackerel

Raw mackerel with tomatoes and chopped onions

Raw mackerel with tomatoes and chopped onions | iStock.com/tacstef

Although some species are high in mercury, as long as you limit your intake of Atlantic mackerel, it’s one of the best fish to eat. Mackerel populations are plentiful, so there’s no danger of overfishing, even considering that they’re eaten all over the world.

As an oily fish, they’re one of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids, making them an advantageous addition to your diet. Unfortunately, they spoil quickly. According to The Cambridge Economic History of Europe Vol. 5, “There are more references to stinking mackerel in English literature than to any other fish.”

2. Pacific halibut

Halibut fish on ice

Halibut fish on ice | iStock.com/vlad_karavaev

One of the victims of overfishing is the halibut, which has been more or less depleted in Atlantic waters. This puts the spotlight on the Pacific halibut, where fishing methods are a little more sustainable.

Pacific halibut are fished using the longline technique, which, just as it sounds, involves a series of hooks attached to a single central line. Longlines are far more environmentally friendly than nets, making Pacific halibut a sustainable option for seafood. If that sounds appealing, try this recipe for halibut with roasted vegetables and spicy cilantro sauce.

3. Anchovies

Anchovy rolls with caper served as appetizer food

Anchovy rolls with capers served as appetizer | iStock.com/IgorDutina

One of the few health risks with fish is mercury. This is especially true of big fish, such as marlin or sharks, because they absorb the mercury of all the fish they eat. That means the smaller the fish, the less mercury it has.

As the popular, go-to small fish, anchovies are one of the best fish to eat. They’re readily available in stores and are just as good canned as they are fresh. Try anchovies from the Adriatic Sea, where harvesting methods are more eco-friendly.

4. Alaskan salmon

Fresh salmon

Fresh salmon | iStock.com/g215

Salmon is a staple of the best fish to eat. We recommend Alaskan wild salmon because it’s better for the environment. Because of its popularity, salmon often is raised in factory farm conditions. That involves a triple-threat with an influx of chemicals, excessive waste, and higher chances fish are sharing diseases and parasites. Wild Alaskan salmon might cost more, but it’s harvested in a much more natural way that’s less damaging to the environment.

5. Mullet

Fried red mullet fish on the plate

Fried red mullet fish on the plate | iStock.com/Santorines

The name might not be very appetizing, nor is its nickname, “trash fish.” But mullet is actually a tasty, environmentally friendly choice when it comes to seafood, landing it on our list of the best fish to eat.

The coastal waters around the U.S. are teeming with mullet, and because they’re relatively unknown, there’s no danger of overfishing. Buying the so-called “trash fish” relieves a lot of the pressure on other fish farms to use unsustainable methods.

6. Rainbow trout

Raw rainbow trout with vegetables

Raw rainbow trout with vegetables | iStock.com/klenova

Like salmon, rainbow trout is another fish so popular that factory farming methods tend to approach hazardous levels. That’s why it’s important to choose wisely where you get your trout. Ponds and recirculating waterways are best for reducing contaminants, according to Seafood Watch.

As a great new recipe, try grilling both trout fillets and some romaine lettuce for a savory and smokey salad.

7. Rockfish

simmered kinki rockfish with sweetened soy sauce

Simmered rockfish with sweetened soy sauce | iStock.com/bonchan

A popular California seafood, the rockfish is recovering from overfishing, though most supplies seem to be fine by now. Conservationists have made great strides in protecting the rockfish, which means today we can eat it guilt-free.

8. Arctic char

freshly caught arctic char

Freshly caught Arctic char | iStock.com/DNHanlon

If you’re looking for a salmon alternative, try Arctic char. Because it’s not nearly as popular (but just as good), Arctic char is farmed in much better conditions, meaning you can buy the cheaper, more convenient brands without the negative impacts on the environment.

9. Sardines

Mediterranean fish on plate

Mediterranean fish on plate | iStock.com/mythja

When it comes to overfishing, sardines suffer more than most. In fact, sardine fishing on the West Coast is illegal due to withering populations. This makes fresh sardines harder to find, but if you manage to, they’re a great catch. Like anchovies, these small fish are low in mercury.

10. Catfish

Catfish steak cooking on a grill

Catfish steak cooking on a grill | iStock.com/Lester120

When it comes to catfish, the best advice is to buy American. America has stronger regulations on fishing techniques and catch limits than countries, including China, Thailand, and Vietnam, from where a lot of our seafood is imported.

Furthermore, these countries are more likely to use chemicals and antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. For a fish like catfish, which comes from all over the world, it’s best to buy it where the laws are enforced to protect the environment.

11. Albacore tuna

A bowl of raw tuna is served at a Japanese restaurant

A bowl of raw tuna is served at a Japanese restaurant | iStock.com/UT07

Last but not least, the most popular of the best fish to eat is tuna. Because tuna is so convenient to find and cook with, it takes very little effort to implement it into your diet. It’s easy to prepare a mean tuna sandwich for lunch, or keep some handy for a snack.

There is a variety of tuna types to choose from, as well as the manner in which it comes (canned, fresh, etc.). We recommend albacore tuna, particularly those harvested in the North Atlantic or Pacific, where there are stricter regulations to prevent harming dolphins or other marine mammals.