California Department of Public Health logo: three likenesses of people colored blue, green, and orange  
Last Edited: 6/5/2014


Fish and shellfish are an important part of a nutritious and healthy diet.  Most people don't eat enough fish to enjoy the health benefits.  Fish are low in saturated fats and an excellent source of protein and other nutrients. Fish are also an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.  Eating fish is especially beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding women because omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved cognitive development in babies. 

Some fish, however, contain chemicals like mercury that may be harmful to your health.  Mercury is of greatest concern to the developing fetus and children.  In 2004 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Consumer Advisory for pregnant and breastfeeding women, including women who might become pregnant, and children under 18. The advisory recommends that these women and children limit the amount of fish they eat and avoid some types of fish that are high in mercury.  For optimal health, everyone should eat fish that is high in omega-3s and low in mercury.
CDPH's advice for children ages 1-17 and women ages 18-45, especially those who are pregnant or breastfeeding:
  • Eat 2 servings a week of fish from the green sections of the chart below, with at least one serving from the dark green (Best Choices) section
  • If you eat seafood from the yellow (Caution) section, eat one serving or less a week
  • Aim for an average of 250 mg a day (or 1,750 mg a week) of omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Do not eat seafood from the Red (Avoid) section
  • Children and pregnant women should not eat raw or partly-cooked seafood because it can cause foodborne illness
  • For an adult, a serving is about 6 ounces of cooked seafood.  Serve children smaller portions, based on the child's weight


Advice for Men Ages 18 and Older and Women Ages 45 and Older 

  • These groups can safely eat more seafood than women ages 18-45 and children.
  • Choose seafood from the green or yellow sections.
  • Avoid fish from the red section.
Fish Consumption Advice for Water Bodies in California


Some fish caught in lakes, reservoirs, rivers, bays, and coastal waters in California contain harmful chemicals such as mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and other chemicals. The California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued advisories for many water bodies in California. These advisories provide information for eating fish caught in these areas. To learn more about advisories for water bodies in California, go to
Children ages 1-17 and women ages 18-45 should not eat:
  • shark, striped bass, and white sturgeon caught from California rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters 
  • bass, carp, and large brown trout (over 16 inches) from most lakes and reservoirs
  • Women over 45 years of age and men should not eat more than 1 serving a week of these fish, or 2 servings a week of striped bass

Best Fish Choices:  steelhead trout, American shad, Chinook (king) salmon from rivers, bays, and coastal waters, and rainbow trout from lakes and reservoirs

What about omega-3s in other foods?

Other foods, including walnuts, soybeans, flaxseed, and canola oil contain omega-3s, too.  The omega-3s found in seafood, however, are a different kind and provide the most benefit for heart health and brain development.


Link to: Choosing Healthy Seafood Fact Sheet 


Main Website



Fact Sheets

  • Mercury in Fish Fact Sheet  --  Fish are nutritious for you and your family....

  • San Francisco Bay Fish Postcard  --  This 5.5 by 8.5 inch postcard provides information on the San Francisco Bay fish advisory and how to safely fish, cook, and consume fish caught in San Francisco Bay....




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