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Is buying fish worth it any more?

I recently went to a fish market in Milford NH the other day and had a real bout with sticker shock.
- Swordfish, $10 a pound
- Halibut, $9 a pound
- Salmon, $9 a pound

(Some were cheaper, but not many)

Is fish worth buying any more?

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  1. Worth is entirely subjective, so I would suggest that, yes, it is worth it to enough people to keep the stores and fishermen in business. Price is one of the few controls that may be able to keep people from demanding so much of this that we overfish to the point of having no fish other than farm-raised to eat in the future. These prices will definitely test your love of the product though, and if you can longer afford what you love, I sympathize.

    1. If you like fish it's still worth it. If price is an issue, try some of the flash frozen stuff like from Trader Joe's. It's not bad for an average home cooked meal...although fresh fish is always better IMO. Just be glad you're near the coast...imagine trying to get fresh fish in a plains state. My sister lives in Denver and one of the first things she does when she gets to SF is have crab...at a 1/4 of the price in Colo.

      1. You are lucky in some ways. The price of most of those fish you listed are double in Los Angeles. Swordfish and real (wild) salmon, for instance, always cost close to or over $20 per pound at the market I shop at.

        Think about it this way. Fish are limited resources. Your fish markets are charging the price they need to pay for the resource, i.e. the costs needed to pay for the increasing difficulties in the fishing industry, because certain species, such as the Atlantic swordfish, are becoming rare.

        The question you have to ask yourself is, (1) is my fish coming from a reputable source (i.e. one that isn't violating international fishing laws and is from a sustainable resource), and (2) does the fish I'm buying taste good enough to me to spend the money on it.

        I for one, LOVE fish. And I will continue to eat it. But when I do so, I will be sure to buy varieties that are viable, and will be willing to pay the fair price for what it costs to eat fish. If fish becomes a luxury, so be it. It probably already should be, and we should adjust our expectations likewise.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DanaB

          wow, I second that. boo Los Angeles-- expensive and not that great either. props to NH, but i can understand how you feel seeing the prices escalate.

          Have a Costco near you? Fish there is considerably less expensive than at my local market and because of their high turnover, it's very fresh and soo good. Unfortunately the selection is kind of limited.

        2. I totally agree and I live in NYC. I have been trying less popular fish with a good deal of success. Tilapia, bass, etc.

          5 Replies
          1. re: BarbaraGale

            Beware of tilapia! besides being pretty flavorless, much of it is factory-farmed in environmentally-unethical ways. And I think there have been cases of contamination and high toxin levels.

            1. re: ghbrooklyn

              Trader Joe's has frozen tilapia for $3.59. It's farm raised and from China. I'm guessing that's not good. I've read that farm-rasied catfish is usually okay.

              1. re: Glencora

                To answer my own question (sort of), the Monterey Bay Aquarium site says US farmed tilapia is one of the best choices. It doesn't mention tilapia from China.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    Thanks, I didn't search around enough.

          2. Bunnyr, those are pretty good prices from where I'm sitting in Florida! (Okay, I'm in Naples which is overpriced in just about everything else too...) The fish you mention are all around $20/lb. here right now. We try to eat fish once or twice a week and that's becoming impossible financially but I do watch the sales. One fish market had fresh cod on sale for $7.99/pound and mahi-mahi will often be on sale for around that price too. I remember just a few short years ago when it was $5.99 on sale, but not anymore! The great thing about fish is that there's barely any waste so it's still a good buy but $20/pound is beyond reach for me, that's for sure. I am however able to find large wild shrimp for $6.99 per pound at Albertson's regularly and sometimes even cheaper if it's on sale that week, so maybe there are certain trade-offs depending on where you live. Tried an incredible Wolfgang Puck recipe using a Chardonnay-Dijon cream sauce last night that we swooned over which I'll post on the home cooking board today.

            1. I agree with the other posters that the prices you quote are far below those we have to deal with in Texas. One of the few dependable fresh fish suppliers in Dallas is Central Market. There you can find excellent red snapper for $20+ and Chilean Sea Bass for $27-$30 per pound. But it is sooooo good. Worth it? Worth is a subjective term, so to each his own.

              3 Replies
              1. re: River Rat

                Beware of Chilean Sea Bass(Patagonian toothfish) - much of it is fished illegally, as it is now being protected by conservation laws as it is coming close to being wiped out.

                1. re: ghbrooklyn

                  Just fyi, there was an article in the NYTimes earlier this month saying Whole Foods was now selling Chilean Sea Bass that comes that comes from one of two farmed communities near Antarctica that have been labelled "sustainable." There's evidently some argument about whether or not Whole Foods may be sending the wrong message that Chilean Sea Bass as a whole is no longer endangered--which it is not. Citarella hasn't sold it for more than three years now, nor have many of the top NYC restaurants such as Le Bernardin and Savoy.

                  1. re: ghbrooklyn

                    But man is it tasty! Fish away I say....

                2. Well, you've happened to pick fairly pricy varieties - those have never been among the less expensive fish. Have you not noticed how much food prices in general have gone up in the past few years? When $25-30/lb is considered normal for marginally prime, semi-aged beef, $10/lb for decent swordfish is quite a a "deal."

                  1. Bunnyr, I live in Amherst NH, and go to the same fish market in Milford that you do. When you consider the quality of their offerings compared to what's available at Shaw's, Stop n Shop and Market Basket, it's definitely worth spending a dollar or two more to get absolutely fresh, sweet-smelling, clear-eyed fish. BTW, there is a fishmonger at the Amherst Farmer's Market at Salzburg Square on Thursdays only who is excellent.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: whs

                      O wow, this is cool. An Ahhhmmm-hurst guy!! (Easy for me to make fun of as my parents still live there.)
                      The Farmers markets in Milford and Amherst are great for the local farmers; I hadnt even considered looking for fish there. I had better take a look if I have a chance. (I have a friend named Maria in Mont Vernon who sells her giant tomatos and free range eggs occasionally in Milford.)
                      As I mentioned before, it is a case of sticker shock more than anything. That along with a job loss and a new child has kept me off of Chowhound completely for over a year and kept us on "apalling food factory" chickens, ground beef, the occasional pork chop stew and vegetarian. Now that my wife and I both have a much better job situation, we are looking at restaurants and more expensive items again. It had been over a year since our last fish market visit. It was certainly interesting to hear that our prices for fish in New Hampshire are considerably lower, but they still seemed high to me! From what I have seen, I should be grateful that the oceans still offer some fish for consumption.

                      1. re: bunnyr

                        Hey, I'm not one of "those" Amherst people...I live in a shack on a dirt road, last house before Mont Vernon. You can do great chowders with cod and haddock, which are a little cheaper than salmon and tuna. Also, Market Basket occasionally has a lobster special: $4.99 a pound, usually in the summer.

                    2. how many people does a pound feed? 2 if you're serving enormous portions, but with enough veggies and starch, a pound can easily feed 4 people, so that's less than $3 a person. a salmon entree in a nice restaurant will range between $20 and $30.

                      the only really cheap protein anymore is supermarket chicken, and those birds are raised in such appalling food factory conditions i refuse to buy it. free-range is around $8 or $10 too.

                      as others have mentioned, you (me too) are fortunate to live so close to fishing grounds, and can get fresh delicious fish all year long. it is a natural resource, and hopefully you're aware of the difficulties fishermen currently face, and the dwindling stocks in the ocean.

                      support local industry, keep the oceans alive, and eat healthy!

                      1. I'll generally prefer good quality frozen over so-called fresh if I'm away from the docks.
                        Consider the seafood distribution system. The fish is out of the water on the boat for hours (sometimes days), then maybe bought by a dockside broker, sometimes it goes to an auction, then a distributor, trucked or flown somewhere, maybe other brokers, warehouses, distributors or an additional auction are involved. No way of telling if the system ever broke down. Especially true if the fish/shellfish is not local.
                        I've been fishing all my life and we freeze what we don't eat within hours of catching it with no problems. Commercial freezing flash-freezes it which is even better and the fish is at the height of freshness.
                        The key is freezing it so it doesn't get freezer-burn and defrosting it properly.
                        BTW, clear-eyes don't always mean anything. The eyes of deep water fish will cloud when they are brought to the surface. The best way is to check the gills - they will be bright red, not brown.

                        1 Reply
                        1. We moved to OC last year and I have been buying less fish due to the high prices. It seems like at whole foods where I shop, they hardly ever have any sales and the fish prices are much higher than denver,philly and NY area, where I used to shop.

                          1. I forgot to add in my post above the link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium site. They have a regional list of what seafood is sustainable to buy. Here's the link:


                            1. When I read your heading I thought I would be reading something different, along the lines of "mercury poisoning, artifically dyed salmon---is fish worth eating any more?". And I see that you live in New England, so that not being able to access fish is a real heartbreaker. How much are those lovely sea scallops going for up there now, just curious?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Querencia

                                lol, she can access it, she's just griping about the price. i'll bet we pay less here for fresh fish (when it can be gotten) than anyplace else in the states. fresh sea scallops are about $10 a pound at local smaller fish stores, but whole foods is always at least 20% more on everything. and i've about given up on them -- the quality is just not that good.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  He. :-)
                                  Scallops were not available at the Milford NH store when I visited.
                                  The supermarket fish quality (Market Basket, Hannford and Shaws are our choices, not counting member "discount" stores) has generally been iffy in the past and I doubt the quality has improved in the past year.


                              2. Maybe you could take up fishing. Although, it can be a costly adventure as well. I fish several times in the summer and freeze most of my catch, then we have a big fish fry in the fall.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Spencer

                                  Ah, well ... that would be a possibility, but we do have a 2-year-old now. That's OK, we weren't fishing before we adopted either! I think we just haven't got the patience it requires to be a good fisherperson.

                                  1. re: bunnyr

                                    There's nothing like sitting with a child waiting for the fish to bite - talking, laughing, no interruptions - unless it's the joy of cooking his catch, especially if he catches the biggest fish. You'll have to learn patience sooner or later once you have a child anyway. At least you'll have fish to show for it and time well spent with your child.

                                2. The notion that that fish is readily available in fishing areas is (a) largely an urban myth. Fishermen took home scrap fish, but rarely was it sold in the area. (I grew up in the remnant of a Mass fishing village and EVERYTHING saleable that came off the boats immediately went onto ice and then into 18 wheelers that rumbled through town at 5am, 6 days a week.) There was a fair amount of seafood available there, but ironically enough, very little of it was "local." And (b), even that was 30 years ago. These days, stocks have been so horrendously depleted that major areas in the North Atlantic and in the Pacific are either inherently worthless or fishing heavily limited. Unless you have a local "farmers' market" with reliable enforcement of local only rules, or live somewhere where small boats can still make money (the Gulf Coast comes to mind), the fish you're buying locally probably came from the gods only know where.

                                  As for the relative expensive per portion, what's that got to do with anything? If a car gets 40 miles to the gallon that's great, but it doesn't mean the gas is any cheaper.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: MikeG

                                    I'm from Anchorage, Alaska and you can still buy fresh seafood in any of the fishing towns much cheaper than you can in a store. Residents can dipnet up to 25 salmon for personal use per year so we usually stock up our freezers and eat it all winter. I love salmon but would have a hard time paying 10-20 bucks a pound!

                                    1. re: MikeG

                                      I have a house in a fishing village on the Chesapeake. Two of the seafood brokers have fish markets, one right at the dock. The other sells non-local far,far away fish along side the local catch. Those of us who know the local watermen know where they dock and buy directly at the boats. I buy my softshells directly from the family that has the shedding tanks about a mile up the road.
                                      Of course, the cheapest thing is still a fishing license.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        dare i say the distribution system may have changed in 30 years?

                                        snarkiness aside, for the last 8 years, i lived in salem, mass., and the fisherman pulled their boats right up to 2 local fishmongers on the waterway who sold both daily catch and product from further away. lobster, crab, stripers, halibut, tuna, bluefish, pollock, cod -- all local and just hours out of the water. ever had those fresh maine shrimp? i can eat a pound myself, and trust me, they don't travel well or far.

                                        even with world-wide shipping (sea urchin to japan, hello!), local brokers buy at the boston, gloucester and new bedford fish piers, so the stuff doesn't have far to go. i'm much more dubious about buying frozen fish, never knowing how many times it's partially thawed before it gets to me.

                                        as for relative price, gas may cost $3 a gallon, but you travel a lot further in a camry than you do in a hummer. fileted fish has zero waste, and very little shrinkage, unlike poultry or meat. i think $3 per person is a great value.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          in some ways the distribution system has gotten worse. More people handle the fish between the fishermen and the consumer and it often travels longer distances. Fish is now available in more outlets where fewer people know how to care for it properly. Consumers leave it in the car while they finish their errands and then don't cook it until the next day...
                                          You might know how to buy fish but a lot of folks are new to fish and have no idea what to look for. Or what to do with what they purchase. If you grow up with it, it's only slightly more complicated than boiling water. Otherwise...
                                          And you're right. Careful purchases make fish great value. You can make some very elegant meals or just simple good food at a low per person cost.

                                    2. As some others have mentioned, the high prices for popular fish suggest that we should consider broadening our choices.

                                      In San Diego fresh-frozen and even truly fresh fish is sometimes available from Catalina Offshore (wholesale, but you can pick it up at the warehouse) and local fishermen. But if we want to stay away from $10 a pound, I've found good deals at asian markets.

                                      99 Ranch and Vien Dong (chains, but perhaps only local) always have one or two wild-caught fish from north American for under $2 a pound. Usually is is something like mackerel or milkfish or trout; smaller and fattier than swordfish and tuna. But cooked whole, Vietnamese-style, these can be great eating. The evidence for the health benefits of fish isn't absolutely clear, but the more oily fish do seem to have the most benefit, and little fish don't build up mercury like the big predators.

                                      From both an economic and environmental standpoint, smaller and fattier fish are the way to go. We may need to pick up a few recipes, but I've found mackerel to be just as enjoyable as swordfish, and much more flavorful than the farmed salmon commonly available in stores.

                                      But I hope my dad will catch some fresh Steelhead up on the Klamath river next season...

                                      1. Hey bunnyr, the fish lady at the Amherst Farmers Market had monkfish yesterday--delicious, and $10/lb. She also has cheaper fish like bluefish and mackerel. Check her out--she's there Thursdays.

                                        1. I only buy fish from the asian grocery store. Since I am in boston I go to super 88 or kam man. I like fish that is whole as opposed to filleted and deboned. Plus fish at the asian store is way cheaper and to me tastes better. You can't get whole spanish mackerel at stop n shop. I also like frozen belt fish and croaker - but I have to take the scales off of that which makes a mess in my kitchen sink.

                                          1. I love fish but I hardly eat it anymore-once you have eaten fish fresh from the sea (clean one) you are never the same-grouper caught far out is great-flying fish from Tobago-superb--but really hard to clean

                                            1. Just go fishing! At 10 bucks a pound I go deep sea fishing out of Plum Island and always have a great catch 30 - 40 lbs of fish Good god what they charge for fish is a CRIME.
                                              If stores sold fish for less they would sell more not less and the fish would be fresh. But no they have to charge to much and it does not sell and gets tossed. Its not over fishing its over pricing thats killing fish stocks. I mean really $10 per lb they can sell it for $6 and still make money and sell more. Its just the greed factor Shaws you know who you are GREEDY.