New Advice from FDA on "Best Choices" for Fish and Shellfish

(July 8, 2019)

The FDA released revised information for pregnant women about the benefits of fish as part of a healthy diet. The advice promotes the science-based recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Guidelines recommend that all people age 11 and up eat at least 8 ounces (two 4-oz servings) of fish or shellfish per week.  
In the FDA release, pregnant women and those breast feeding are advised to eat 2 -3 servings of fish per week from choices that are lower in mercury. The release includes a chart with fish choices that are identified as "best," "good," or "choices to avoid."  Examples of fish to avoid because of higher mercury levels include king mackerel swordfish and bigeye tuna. See sources list at the bottom of this article to link to the complete list of recommendations, "Advice About Eating Fish."
The chart below presents eight of the ten most popular kinds of seafood consumed in the U.S. These eight are also on the FDA's "best choices" list because they contain lower levels of mercury. The second column identifies the best "ocean friendly" sources, including regions of the U.S., world, and/or fishing methods, while the third column has "good" alternative ocean friendly sources. Buying more sustainable seafood helps put less strain on the fish populations.

Most Popular Types of Seafood on
FDA "Best Choices" List
Healthy Seafood (2-3 servings a week) Ocean Friendly Source Good Alternative Source
17 types
U.S. Farmed Canada and U.S wild; Ecuador and Honduras farmed
13 types
New Zealand/Wild Alaskan canned Atlantic (BC and ME farmed); CA, OR, WA
Tuna, Canned (light, such as skipjack)
2 types canned
none for canned all canned ok
3 types
Canada, Ecuador, Peru, U.S. Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Taiwan
4 types
Pacific (Alaska) Atlantic (lowest mercury)(handlines, poles and lines)
4 types
U.S. Farmed Basa or Tra variety
10 types
Blue (MD), King, Snow, Tanner (AK); Stone (U.S.) Blue (AL, DE. NJ and MD pots)
9 types

Oysters, mussels also good choices
all ocean friendly  
Seafood is listed in descending order of popularity, based on per capita consumption rates, 2017 (National Fisheries Institute). Seafood is only included that is also listed as a "Best Choice" on the FDA's "Advice about Eating Fish" publication. "Types" links to the EDF Seafood Selector detail. Chart compiled by

Sources for Chart:
-- FDA's "Advice about Eating Fish" - for women who are or might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children. The brochure's nutrition advice is applicable to everyone and is based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Prepared by the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Includes chart of fish choices, including fish to avoid.
--Ten most popular seafoods based on per capita consumption rates. The average U.S. consumer eats 14 pounds of seafood per year. National Fisheries Institute:
-- Monterey Bay Aquarium SeafoodWatch Program. Provides charts with ocean-friendly, sustainable seafood choices, along with an app you can use when you dine at restaurants or shop for seafood. Downloadable Guide or Search for Seafood or Sushi or information on the app. The app contains additional information, such as "eco-certifications," which are also on the EDF site.
-- EDF Seafood Selector. "Fish that is good for you and the ocean." The EDF Seafood Selector site has a small picture of each fish, along with its eco-rating and mecury level rating that are coordinated with the Seafood Watch Program. It also tells you where the fish is sourced from, capture methods, and recommended servings per month. 
More Reading:
-- Epicurious: "The Best Canned Tuna for You and the Planet." Explains why bycatch is the big problem with tuna fishing: the "purse seine method" of using giant nets catches sea life other than tuna. If the product package indicates how it was caught, look for "pole-and-line caught" or "troll caught" or "MSC-certified" seal. Provides links to brand comparisons. Epicurious, May 22, 2017.

-- Marine Stewardship Council:
Lists global partners, such as Aldi, that sell fish with the "MSC" blue label.The MSC Fisheries Standard is used to assess if a fishery is well-managed and sustainable. In the United Kingdom, use the  Marine Conservation Society  UK website.