How often should you eat striped bass?

Striped bass, also known as stripers or rockfish, are a popular game fish found along the Atlantic coast of North America. They are prized by recreational anglers and commercial fishermen alike for their fighting spirit and delicious flesh. However, concerns have been raised over contaminants like mercury that can accumulate in fish and potentially harm human health. So how often can you safely eat striped bass?


In conclusion, most experts recommend eating striped bass no more than once per week when caught recreationally. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should follow the more conservative EPA/FDA advice of limiting intake to 2-3 meals per month. When buying commercially, choose wild-caught U.S. Atlantic stripers and avoid imported fish. Follow serving recommendations and choose smaller, younger fish when possible. Grilling, broiling, or baking stripers can allow some fat to drip away. Overall, striped bass is a healthy, sustainable seafood choice that can be enjoyed regularly as part of a balanced diet.

Nutritional benefits of striped bass

Striped bass are a nutritious fish choice and a great source of lean protein, providing about 29 grams in a 4-ounce cooked portion. Stripers are a good to excellent source of:

  • Selenium – supports thyroid health and immune function
  • Niacin – aids metabolism and brain function
  • Vitamin B6 – important for immunity and red blood cell production
  • Phosphorus – helps strengthen bones and teeth
  • Potassium – key for heart health and muscle function
  • Magnesium – boosts energy and brain health

Striped bass are relatively low in mercury compared to many other fish. A 4-ounce portion contains around 0.05 ppm mercury, well under the EPA’s 0.3 ppm advisory limit. However, stripers do accumulate some pollutants like PCBs, so consumption should be limited.

Farmed vs wild striped bass

Most striped bass sold commercially in the U.S. are wild-caught in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. There are some land-based “farms” that raise stripers in enclosed tanks or ponds. Farmed stripers may contain lower contaminants than wild fish since their feed can be controlled. However, wild stripers are generally considered superior in flavor and texture.

Pros of farmed striped bass:

  • Lower mercury levels
  • Lower likelihood of parasites
  • Less habitat damage than wild fisheries

Cons of farmed striped bass:

  • Fed unnatural diets high in soy/corn
  • More fat than wild stripers
  • Lower omega-3s than wild fish
  • Risk of antibiotic overuse

When purchasing farmed striped bass, look for brands raised in the U.S. or Canada following eco-friendly practices. Avoid imported farmed stripers.

Wild striped bass sport fishing limits

Recreational fishing regulations for striped bass vary by state. Most states follow recommendations set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to ensure sustainable management of wild stocks. Here are the current 2022 daily limits for several key striper fishing states on the Atlantic coast:

State Daily limit per person
Massachusetts 1 fish 28″ to less than 35″
New York 1 fish 18″ to less than 28″
Maryland 2 fish 19″ to 28″
Virginia 2 fish 20″ to 36″
North Carolina 3 fish per person

Regulations are intended to protect larger, breeding-age fish that are most valuable to the striped bass population. Anglers should check their state’s regulations each year for updates.

Purchasing striped bass

When buying whole striped bass at the supermarket or fish market, here are some tips for selecting high-quality fish:

  • Look for shiny skin without bruises or blemishes
  • Firm, elastic flesh that bounces back when touched
  • Clear, bulging eyes
  • Bright red gills without odor
  • Scales that adhere tightly to skin

Sniff fish to check for fresh, mild scent without ammonia odor. For fillets, look for translucent, moist flesh without discoloration. Fillets should display visible striations parallel to the length of the fillet.

Ask where striped bass were caught. Atlantic-caught U.S. wild stripers are best. Pacific Ocean or imported fish may have higher contaminants.

Mercury levels in striped bass

Like many fish, striped bass can contain low levels of mercury. Older, larger stripers tend to accumulate the most mercury as it bioaccumulates up the food chain. Here are the mercury levels typical for stripers of different sizes:

Fish Size Total Mercury (ppm)
Less than 20 inches 0.01 – 0.03
20-25 inches 0.06 – 0.16
26-30 inches 0.19 – 0.26
Over 30 inches 0.30 – 0.50

To minimize mercury exposure, the EPA and FDA recommend limiting intake of fish like striped bass with mercury levels around 0.2 ppm to no more than 2-3 meals per month. Smaller stripers under 20 inches can safely be eaten more frequently.

Striped bass contaminant guidelines

Here are the current advisory guidelines from government health agencies for eating striped bass caught recreationally or purchased commercially:

EPA/FDA advice for sensitive groups:

Pregnant/nursing women, women who may get pregnant, and children under age 6 should eat no more than 2-3 meals per month. A meal is considered 4 ounces cooked (about 3/4 pound).

EPA/FDA advice for general population:

Healthy adults can safely eat 1 meal per week, which equates to around 4 servings monthly. Follow local fish advisories if they are more stringent.

State-specific advisories:

Some state health departments provide localized advice about eating recreationally caught striped bass for sensitive groups or the general public based on area contaminants.

For example, Massachusetts cautions pregnant women and children under 12 to limit consumption of stripers caught north of Cape Cod to 2 meals per month due to PCBs. Maine recommends just 1 meal per month of striped bass for pregnant/nursing women and young children.

Preparing and cooking striped bass

To reduce potential contaminants when cooking striped bass at home:

  • Remove skin and dark fatty tissue before cooking to decrease PCBs
  • Grill, broil, bake, or poach to let fat drain away rather than pan-frying
  • Avoid charring or burning the fish, which can increase PAH formation
  • Discard used cooking oils instead of reusing

Marinating striped bass in acidic ingredients like lemon, lime, vinegar, or wine before cooking may also help reduce mercury content. Enjoy stripers in healthy recipes like grilled tacos, foil-wrapped fish and vegetables, or seafood stew.

Health risks of eating striped bass

While striped bass are nutritious overall, contaminants like mercury, PCBs, and dioxins can pose health risks when the fish is eaten in excess. Potential dangers especially apply to sensitive groups like children and pregnant women.

Mercury is linked to neurological problems and delayed development in fetuses and young children. PCBs may impact brain function and increase cancer risk. Dioxins are classified as carcinogenic and toxic.

However, striped bass have lower levels of these pollutants compared to many marine fish. By following government consumption guidelines, the benefits of eating stripers can be enjoyed without risk.

Sustainability of wild striped bass

Atlantic striped bass experienced severe overfishing in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to fishing moratoriums and strict management plans. Their numbers have rebounded, and wild striped bass are now considered a sustainable fishery when regulations are enforced.

However, conservation groups like the International Game Fish Association recommend releasing large breeding stripers over 30 inches when caught recreationally. Striped bass face declining prey numbers, pollution, habitat loss, and warming waters, so responsible management is still crucial.

Final verdict on eating striped bass

Striped bass are a tasty, lean fish that come with notable health perks. However, stripers do contain low doses of contaminants that can build up over time. By limiting intake, you can gain the benefits of striped bass while minimizing potential risks.

Enjoy wild-caught Atlantic stripers in moderation, following recommendations to eat no more than 1 meal per week. Opt for younger, smaller fish when possible. Check local advisories for sport-caught fish, and avoid imported striped bass.

Including striped bass as part of a varied seafood diet that also contains salmon, rainbow trout, tilapia, shrimp and other low-mercury options can help minimize contaminant exposure while reaping the nutritional benefits fish provide.

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