When it comes to healthy, lean meats, there is really nothing better for your body than fish. Full of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and plenty of other nutrients, these water creatures can help you live a long and productive life. Health experts advocate consuming at least two portions of fish every week. For those of us who lead a particularly active lifestyle, such as athletes, this amount should be even higher than that. The same can be said for people whose jobs are mentally draining, as fish have proven to be beneficial to the functioning of our brains.
Not every type of fish is the same. The vast majority of people are accustomed to eating fish such as cod, canned tuna, and smoked salmon. These are good, affordable options to incorporate into your daily diet. However, the fish market is much larger than these three species, and the prices of some of the most expensive fish in the world will surely shock even the most avid fish lovers!
What Determines the Prices of Fish?
With the most expensive fish species costing millions of dollars, many people justifiably question the thought process behind such elevated prices, whether at fishermen’s markets or fancy restaurants. After all, shelling out a sum that could easily buy you multiple houses for a few ounces of fish doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?
However, there is actually a number of factors that determines the value of the world’s most expensive edible fish. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ones that elevate fish prices to the hundreds of thousands of dollars don’t really have anything to do with the overall quality of its meat. Here are the three key determinants of the value of the costliest fish in the world:
- Rarity: Considering how quickly our oceans get depleted of all kinds of fish, the rarity of each given species is important when it comes to assessing how much they could be sold for. It’s simple economics: the lower the amount of a specific kind of fish, the more expensive it will get.
- Legality: In many countries around the world, certain fish species are not allowed to be caught, mainly because they are facing extinction due to overfishing. In some cases, governments resort to these drastic measures because the extinction of a particular kind of fish could wreak havoc on the entire ecosystems of freshwater and saltwater bodies. If a species can’t legally be fished out in most countries it naturally occurs in, its price will skyrocket because the fishermen will have to resort to extralegal means in order to obtain it.
- Demand: High demand for any kind of fish can be caused by a variety of factors. There is, of course, the flavor of it — the tastiest fish are obviously the most frequently sought-after ones. If a fish is particularly yummy, but also very rare, it will get more and more expensive as time goes by. Add to that the legality issue, and you end up with eye-watering prices for a few heavenly bites.
As you may have already deducted on your own, the modern fish trade raises plenty of ethical and ecological issues. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions to these issues. On the one hand, the continued fishing for endangered species will undoubtedly lead to the extinction of said species in the coming years. On the other, however, being a fisherman is not necessarily the most lucrative profession of all — for many of them, catching an illegal species and then selling it is a ticket to a better life for themselves and their families.
Another important thing to consider is that it’s not only the fishermen and fishing companies that are at fault — our taste for wild-caught fish is also partially to blame. According to recent studies, approximately 20% of such fish species that end up in the United States were illegally obtained, and yet still find their way to high-end restaurants all over the country.
So, there you have it — how the most expensive fish in the world are priced. With that out of the way, we can move on to our list of the top 10 most expensive fish in the world you can eat at expensive restaurants and a few high-end hotels around the world.
The Most Expensive Fish in the World
Price per pound: $20
Place of origin: Northern Pacific Ocean
This delicious fish with pink meat opens up our list of the costliest fish on the planet. At twenty dollars per pound, it is not as pricey as some of the ones further down our ranking, and its unique flavor is well worth the price, as it is distinctly better than some of the other salmon species in a similar price range.
Sockeye salmon doesn’t only taste unique. Its looks make it difficult to mistake it for any other type of salmon — it is covered by fiery-red scales all the way up until the head of the fish, which is green. Most foodies and chefs consider red sockeye salmon to be the tastiest when smoked.
Price per pound: $30
Place of origin: Pacific Ocean (mainly shallow waters), also found in the Mediterranean and North Seas
Contrary to what its name might suggest, the Dover sole can be caught in many other areas of the world, such as most of the coastal areas of the Pacific, as well as the Mediterranean. The British fishing fleet tended to catch the highest quantities of this fish in the past, which is why it became known as the “Dover sole.”
It is a flat fish with a sweet taste that reminisces spiced meats such as beef or chicken, which is a flavor profile that isn’t usually associated with saltwater fish. Though it might be considerably more expensive than other types of flatfish, the Dover sole is generally considered to be the best seafood dish for people who hate seafood, precisely because it lacks the “fishy” taste that some people are put off by.
Price per pound: $30
Place of origin: Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, usually in shallow waters
Halibut is one of the more popular types of fish, eaten all over the world. As such, it may surprise you that it ranks as one of the most expensive saltwater fish in the world. A pound of halibut will cost you around thirty dollars, which is quite lofty, but it amounts to mere pennies when compared to some of the costlier fish on our list.
These flat fish can grow to enormous sizes, with the average Pacific halibut weighing around 400 pounds, with its Atlantic counterparts averaging at about 300. It is a fitness-friendly species of fish due to its low fat content. Wild halibut has become increasingly rare in recent years, which is the main factor behind its continuously rising market price.
Price per pound: $30
Place of origin: North Pacific Ocean and Western-North American rivers
This buttery, savory kind of salmon is one of the most delicious seafood you can get your hands on at a fairly reasonable price. They’re covered with green-white scales, and their meat has a very soft texture.
The chinook salmon can be found in both freshwater and saltwater bodies. Wild-caught chinook salmon can weigh hundreds of pounds, but due to the skyrocketing demand for it all around the world, it has become endangered across its native habitats.
Price per pound: $30
Place of origin: tropical and subtropical ocean waters (ex. U.S. Pacific Islands)
With scarlet-red meat and soft, mouthwatering texture, this exotic tuna species has quickly become the fish of choice at some of the finest sushi establishments around the world. On average, it costs about thirty dollars per pound, but that’s only if you live close to the tropical and subtropical water bodies they are native to. The further away from these places you get, the more you’ll have to shell out for yellowfin tuna, with its per-pound prices reaching as high as forty dollars in countries high up in the Northern Hemisphere.
Price per pound: $60
Place of origin: Atlantic, Indian, Pacific Oceans
Even if you’re a complete fishing rookie, you are unlikely to mistake the swordfish for any other species. This is because of its long, pointy, sword-like protrusion that it uses to hunt out in the wild. With the average weight of a swordfish being around 200 pounds, it is certainly lighter than most tunas or salmon types.
The lean swordfish meat resembles chicken in appearance. This species is usually served in the form of fillets, with its mild flavor attracting many fish lovers willing to shell out a fair bit of money for a portion.
Alaska Wild King Salmon
Price per pound: $70
Place of origin: Alaskan water bodies
Caught mainly in Alaska, this American wild king salmon is a delicacy enjoyed all over the world, with the high demand driving up its prices, as well as reducing these salmons’ populations in its native regions. The clean environments of Alaska allow these fish to grow far larger than its salmon counterparts. Their habitats are also optimal for the proper development of these fish throughout their lifespans, making them one of the tastiest fish you could ever eat.
At seventy dollars per pound, the wild king salmon is usually eaten on very rare occasions by most people living outside of Alaska.
Fugu (Puffer Fish)
Price per pound: $200
Place of origin: tropical and subtropical ocean waters
The puffer fish is probably one of the most expensive fish most people are too terrified to eat. This is because its body contains toxins that are deadly to the human body, and they can only be eaten if prepared by a chef specializing in preparing puffer fish. In countries like Japan, only chefs that are licensed to cook puffer fish are allowed to prepare and serve it to customers.
Despite its potential lethality, fish enthusiasts are often willing to pay a pretty penny for a taste of this species, also known as fugu. Its price tag of two hundred dollars per pound is mainly driven by this novelty aspect, combined with a variety of regulations that prevent puffer fish from being served outside of the finest sushi restaurants and a few high-end hotels and restaurants, most of which are located in Japan.
American Glass Eel
Price per pound: $3,000
Place of origin: North America’s Eastern Coast
With these last two entries of our ranking, we’re entering the territory of fish that are outright unaffordable for the vast majority of the population. The American Glass Eeel, priced at a whopping three thousand dollars per pound, is the second-most expensive fish to eat, for all the wrong reasons.
The flavor and texture of this eel is nothing to write home about, described by most as laying somewhere between chicken and catfish. Due to poaching and illegal fishing practices, however, the American Glass Eel has become so scarce that fisheries and restaurants can charge exorbitant prices for each portion of it, with people still being eager to try it due to its “exclusive” status.
Price per pound: $5,000
Place of origin: mainly Pacific Ocean, but can also be found elsewhere
Primarily used to prepare some of the finest sushi known to mankind, the bluefin tuna broke the record for the most expensive fish ever sold in 2019, when it was purchased for an unbelievable $3 million in Japan. It has a unique flavor that distinguishes it from other tuna species. Furthermore, it is increasingly scarce. This applies particularly to the wild bluefin tuna caught in the coastal areas of Japan, where they tend to grow the largest.
The combination of scarcity, high demand, and delicious flavor profile led to the skyrocketing of bluefin tuna’s prices. Recently, the Japanese government restricted fishing of this species in order to help replenish the tuna population in Japanese waters, which further impacted the already-growing prices.
The Bottom Line
Eating a hearty fish meal multiple times a week has been proven to be greatly beneficial for the human body and our overall wellbeing. The fish listed above are some of the most expensive seafood products in the entire world, and their prices are expected to rise until there are but a few remaining fish of their kind on Earth.
If you’re a hardcore seafood lover, trying some of these out is probably on your bucket list. On the other hand, if you simply want to eat more fish for health reasons or to implement more variety into your diet, you don’t need to shell out hundreds of dollars per meal — the fish found at your local grocery store will do the job just fine.Visit The Kitchen Community for ideas for dishes that include fish, and browse through the collection of the best recipes found online! We update our side with new dishes on a regular basis, so be sure to check back frequently for our unique takes on fish-based and other meals.