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Pescatarian vs. Vegetarian...

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I don't think I'm a true Vegatarian, at least not yet. I can do w/o most meat b/c it tends to upset my stomach and it really isn't good for my particular digestive system. Seafood however doesn't cause me pain, I love the taste and I eat a couple servings of fish a week. I completely failed at being a vegan, that lasted for about 2 weeks. But I've been vegatarian off and on for the last 3 years. My longest stint was a period of about 8 mos. The last time I tried, I was able to go about 3-4 months.  I would like to try to be vegetarian again, but I'm having the hardest time giving up seafood. I'm a pretty logical person (hopefully my wife would attest to this). I don't really have a logical reason for giving up seafood other than "Being a vegetarian is healthier".  But that doesn't seem to be enough. With meat, I could say "Meat upsets my stomach", and then it's easy to quit. But with seafood... no such problem. 

Any advice? Or maybe I should just stay eating seafood? And for those who like eating seafood, do you notice any health benefits? For those who don't like seafood, why not? THANKS!


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If you desperately seek a logical reason to give up seafood, why bother?  I'm a pescetarian and while I feel a little guilty eating seafood since I gave up meat for mostly ethical reasons, I find it's what works within my means, so I continue to eat it and I like it.  It gives me another source of protein and good fats, it's sometimes healthier than "vegetarian" options at most restaurants (read: pasta), and it's a lot better for you than other animal flesh.  I try and stick to those fish that are considered better for you, like shrimp and salmon, although I do have eel and tuna when I eat sushi and I love snapper.  I also only try to eat it about once a week, since I'd like to remain mostly vegetarian.

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Why do you want to give it up? Sounds like you like it, so why do this to yourself?

This depends.  Do you want to be vegetarian for purely health reasons, or do you care about the environmental/animal cruelty/animal rights reasons for being veg*n as well?

I absolutely love being a Pescetarian!!!  Since I gave up meat because 1. Ground beef for some reason makes me feel sick to my stomach when i eat it 2. I don't really like the taste of steak, pork, chicken, or turkey and 3. The textures of land dwelling animals for some reason do not appeal to me, I see no problem continuing the fish eating.  I loooove seafood.  the texture and flavor - sweet yet salty - is AMAZING.  I also noticed that I feel better now that the only meat i eat is seafood.  it's loads better for you than other meat.  So, if you have no problem killing sea animals (my point of view is like native americans who ate fish and believed that animals and plants all live off of the deaths of one another) then more power to you.


Well, there is the mercury thing.  Most fish contain some mercury, and mercury bioaccumulates, so once you eat it, you're stuck with it.  Pescatarians tend to eat a lot of fish (I know I did - like almost a can of tuna or salmon a day!), so you could be eating too much mercury.

And there's the factory fish farms are bad for the environment thing...leaching out tons of feed, dead animals, antibiotics, etc. into the sea.

But here is the reason I stopped eating fish:  bycatch.  If you aren't familiar with the term, look it up on wikipedia or, better yet, look it up on youtube.  There are some videos on there about it.

Bycatch is all the other things that commercial fisherman catch and then have to throw back, like turtles, birds, whales, sharks...anything they are not allowed to catch they just let die and then dump back into the sea.  I was a happy pescatarian when I watched a video on bycatch in class, and it was the most horrible thing I have ever seen.

I think commercial fishing is even worse that factory farming because these are WILD ANIMALS THAT WE ARE MASSACRING!!  We are causing species-level extinctions, AND polluting the ocean, AND torturing and killing animals that we are not even going to eat and are not allowed to sell.  It is the biggest, saddest waste of life imaginable.

(ETA: Did I mention that for some fish, and shrimp especially, more than HALF of what they catch can be bycatch?  For shrimp it is more like 80% bycatch.  So for every pound of shrimp you eat, you are responsible for the death of 4 other pounds of birds, fish, sharks, and whales...)

Man, I miss salmon, though.  There is nothing yummier than a fresh hunk of raw salmon.  MMM.  But the next time I eat it, I'm going to be in Alaska, standing in the river right next to one of those bears, with my mouth open, waiting for a salmon to jump right in.  And boy will it taste good, 'cause I won't feel guilty at all.

Sorry for the rant, but since you asked, I thought I would share.  I don't know if an environmental/ethical reason is good enough for you, but it's the best I've got.

i went on and off pescatarian to vegetarian, usually going a few weeks or a few months without fish.  mainly it was difficult to give up completely because of social eating.  restuarants around here rarely have any main course dishes without meat.

however, i finally put down my foot and resolve.  now when we go out to eat, i stick to side dishes, ask for things substituted, salads or i skip right to dessert, haha.

i'm still in the process of trying to go fully vegan, but again, eating socially is when i allow myself to eat small amounts of dairy/eggs.

i'd say don't beat yourself up too much about it and eat what you are comfortable with and makes you feel good about yourself.  labels are only labels...who cares what other people think about your diet.

Jul 11 2008 00:47
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Most of the fish around here is farmed or freshwater - no bycatch with these. Same thing with trolled (or line caught) wild fish, but they can be really expensive. If you're going to eat tuna, keep it down to one or two cans a week. Fish is a good way to get a lot of protein with minimal calories.

Longline fishing tends to kill birds.  They dive down to see what's up, get caught on a hook, and are dragged until they drown.  It's really nice, actually.

Unless you catch the fish yourself, it's hard to know how they are caught.  There is no such thing as fishing without bycatch.  Even your local angler probably kills about 50% of the fish he "releases" if he doesn't know what he's doing (often even if he does).  If you troll for fish, you are still going to kill fish (and birds, and other things).  Hooks kill things. They just do.

And fish farms are just CAFOS on better than hog or cattle farms, so I wouldn't be too proud of eating farmed fish, either.  But hey, I know all the tricks for justifying a pescatarian lifestyle...whatever helps you sleep at night.

Okay, so this response is much more cranky than I had planned.  Sorry (really).  But I hate it when people delude themselves.  If you love fish and want to eat it, that's fine.  Fish are delicious and healthy!  But ignorance of the real situation is bad, and deluding yourself is no better.   Make your food choices deliberately, with complete information and complete honesty.

There is nothing yummier than a fresh hunk of raw salmon.

I call myself a sushi-tarian these days, because I do so much better with a little raw fish in my diet.  But most fish should not be eaten raw, as in fresh out of their habitat - you run a high risk of a parasitic infection.  Sashimi-grade fish is frozen to -4F to kill parasites, then thawed.

I'm a pescetarian but I try to keep my fish consumption down to 1 to 2 times a month.  And like lysistrata said, I tend to keep that fish consumption to raw fish in sushi.  Sometimes it gets to be a little more, though, if I'm eating out often at non-vegetarian restaurants.


I understand COMPLETELY what pumpkin314 is saying and my nickname is "the guilty pescetarian" because I do feel bad when eating fish, but it's what's within my means.  Yes, I could give it up easily, but I would rather not get stuck with eating pasta or side dishes for every meal, at least not while I'm still trying to lose weight.  I resolved to stop eating animal flesh (aside from fish) and I believe that my doing that is a big step for me, and a small step towards making the world less dependent on meat.

Interesting that most of the pescatarians who commented called every other animal flesh "meat" but fish/seafood isn't included in that... why is that exactly? Fish and seafood are meat, too-- you didn't actually stop eating "meat".

I recommend checking out Dr. Fuhrman's information on eating fish.

Wow... that's a really informative article... definitely left me with a lot to think about. So did all these comments. Thanks!

Yes, I have thought about the mercury thing. I can't say I've memorized the list of which fish I can and can't eat. I've had quite a bit of tuna, salmon, tilapia and sea bass, that's for sure.  Thanks, I have a vegan friend and she's full of knowledge like that, but I haven't really listened to her. Although fully aware of the inhumane practices with Beef, Pork, Poultry and Foul, admittedly I've ignored all the stuff going on with fish b/c... well, I like to eat fish. Looks like I have a lot of thinking to do...  thanks for the info! 

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Yes, I was vegetarian for about two years- except during the summers when i'd catch, cook and eat my own salmon. I love fish- and I'd now consider myself a pescaterian, since I don't think I'm getting enough protein being a vegetarian. I tend to fill up on carbs. :( Now that I'm eating shrimp and fish more often- I feel more full faster!

I agree with the whole anti-farm fishing thing. Its really gross to see the way they farm. I would much rather go out at 5am, catch my Lake Michigan King Salmon, and cook it at noon for lunch. You can't get much fresher or healthier than that. :) Its incredible.
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In response to the person who said they eat fish because otherwise they fill up on carbs, if you want to be vegetarian, then eat more vegetarian protein.  There is tofu, tons of different kinds of beans and nuts, and even more recipes which use those things.  I don't know many vegans or vegetarians who went veg*n because they didn't like all flesh or all animal products, they made the decision because they believed it was the right thing to do, and then they made the effort to learn how to eat healthily as a veg*n.

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Yes- that was my original intention: I wanted to be more healthy by avoiding the bad fats, etc in meats. Since the only meats that were really available to me were very unhealthy options. When I began a veg- I was very good about going shopping etc for greens and veg protein. Unfortunately after 2 years of college I realized the poor veg options on campus- and noticed how poorly I was eating. Anyways- it was really difficult for me to go and buy the veg protein options(proximity, cost, time, etc) after starting college, and I gradually sunk into a "non meat eater" category rather than my initial veg status. 

Now I've found a happy medium for my lifestyle, location, time, and health. Eating fish occasionally, otherwise- lots of veggies.

i try to only eat fish once a month and the sustainable kind. its not perfect, & its usually around tom. and i know i need to stay away from mercury laden food, especially since i need to get more of these old fillings out, im sure my body is swarming in it. but theres loads of veg protein out there. it all comes down to whether you can realistically refrain from choosing to eat fish and if you can sustain the motivation. we all have our limits, if you can push pass it then good for you.

i was veg for 4 years before i started eating seafood again, and even though i'm well aware of all the reasons why seafood isn't an exception to "meat", it was a compromise i was forced to make for my health. fortunately, i live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada and generally don't have a hard time finding relatively humane, sustainable seafood. my dad is a fly-fisherman, so i get most of my fresh, wild salmon from him. if anyone else is from Vancouver, there's a great company called Raincoast Trading that uses selective harvesting techniques in order to eliminate bycatch.. or at least, enable them to return all non-targeted species back to their environments unharmed. they even have fully recyclable cans with labels printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink!  there's more info at :)

As some of you have said.. I agree that is one of my pet peeves.

I am vegetarian... except i eat fish.

Fish is not a vegetable! Why not just say I mostly eat vegetables but sometimes fish.

I don't have any hard feelings towards people who eat this way. I just think the lable vegetarian should be just vegetables.


I am vegan for many reason 1. health 2. environment 3. animal cruelty


As an ecologist I want to tell you guys something. The main reason I don't eat seafood is because it is WASTEFUL. E.g. To get 1 lb of shrimp they take a huge fork-type thing and scrape the sea floor- like someone else said sometimes more than 50% is bycatch which is "garbage"!!!!!! disturbing. If you guys care about the environment, and the futures of our oceans and seas I would advise you to cut down on seafood or cut it out all together~

i don't think any of us eat seafood because we don't care about the environment, or because we're unaware of the damage it does. as i said, i try my very best to only eat humanely and sustainably caught seafood, and the amount of seafood i eat is really very little. that's what i am currently able to sustain, at this point in my life. even so, it was an incredibly tough decision to start eating fish again after being veg for almost 5 years. that's just me, i'm sure everyone else has their own reasons, and i'm sure they're all perfectly valid. just the same as plenty of vegetarians have valid reasons for not being vegan.

just because i'm not a vegan doesn't mean i'm evil, or misinformed. i could choose to be ignorant and eat a steak with every meal, but i don't. i do the best i can within my means, and i don't appreciate being made to feel like it's not good enough. this isn't an "all or nothing" area - we're all contributing, whether we go all the way or not.

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