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What Fish Are Safe to Eat?

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Most fish are good to eat and good for you—high in protein and other nutrients, and low in fat. But some kinds of fish contain high amounts of mercury, which can cause health problems in people, especially children. To help you make the healthiest choices, North Carolina offers the following advice:

Women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years), pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under age 15:

All other people

Fish LOW in mercury

Ocean Fish:

  • Black drum
  • Canned light tuna
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Jacksmelt
  • Lobster
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Ocean perch
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Pompano
  • Red drum
  • Salmon (canned, fresh or frozen)
  • Scallops
  • Sheepshead
  • Shrimp
  • Skate
  • Southern kingfish (sea mullet)
  • Spot
  • Speckled trout (spotted sea trout)
  • Tripletail
  • Whitefish
  • Whitegrunt

Freshwater Fish:

  • Bluegill sunfish
  • Farm-raised catfish
  • Farm-raised trout
  • Farm-raised crayfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout

Fish HIGH in mercury

Ocean Fish

  • Albacore (white) tuna** fresh or canned
  • Almaco jack
  • Banded rudderfish
  • Cobia
  • Crevalle jack
  • Greater amberjack
  • South Atlantic grouper (gag, scamp, red and snowy)
  • King mackerel
  • Ladyfish
  • Little tunny
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Shark
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • Tuna, fresh or frozen**

Freshwater Fish:

  • Blackfish (bowfin)*
  • Black crappie***
  • Catfish (caught wild)*
  • Jack fish (chain pickerel)*
  • Largemouth bass (statewide)
  • Walleye from Lake Fontana and Lake Santeetlah (Graham and Swain counties)
  • Warmouth*
  • Yellow perch*

*High mercury levels have been found in blackfish (bowfin), catfish, jack fish (chain pickerel), warmouth, and yellow perch caught south and east of Interstate 85.
**Different species from canned light tuna.
***High mercury levels have been found in black crappie caught south and east of Interstate 95.

Current fish advisories in effect for North Carolina are available on the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Current Fish Advisories page as well as through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For Additional Information

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Mercury
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Fish Advisories External link
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Popular Topics - Seafood External link
  • Gateway to Government Food Safety Information ( Consumer advice on seafood External link
  • Contact the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Public Health at (919) 707-5900.