Seafood vs. Fish: Differences & Which Is Better?

Seafood vs Fish

Given that more than two-thirds of the world consists of water, it is unsurprising just how massive and diverse the culinary world of seafood is. And the most common form of seafood happens to be fish. But what are the differences between seafood and fish?

Seafood encompasses all edible sea life, while fish is one type of seafood. Fish are aquatic vertebrates (some non-vertebrates) that bear gills, scales, and fins. Seafood includes fish and a wide variety of crustaceans, mollusks, and echinoderms. 

As you can see, all fish species are seafood, but not all forms of seafood are fish. And in this article, we will highlight the distinctions between the two terms and how you can separate them. Plus, we will answer some other questions regarding the organisms that qualify as seafood.

Seafood vs. Fish: Differences

Before explaining their differences in detail, here is your cheat sheet that can help you differentiate between seafood and fish.

Fish Seafood
All species of fish are animals.Can be an animal as well as a plant.
Not appropriate for a vegetarian dietCan be appropriate for a vegetarian diet.
Not vegan friendlyVegan friendly.
A relatively smaller group of edible animals.A broader, more diverse group of food.

Seafood is a broad term. It covers any form of aquatic life that people consume as food. This includes many species of animal, spanning multiple different phyla and classes. Some of the examples of seafood are:

  • Lobsters
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Crabs

None of those above examples classify as fish. They belong to different classes, orders, and even species in the taxonomy of living organisms.

On the other hand, fish is one specific group of aquatic life that people have been consuming for many millennia. They possess certain characteristics that make them distinct from other water-based life forms. For example:

  • They have a scaly exterior, not one with shells like crustaceans and mollusks.
  • They do not photosynthesize and make their food. So, they are not a plant or vegetation.
  • They breathe through gills for all of their life. This fact separates them from amphibians and reptiles. 

As you can see, the term seafood is not limited to just fish and fish-like animals. Even plants and vegetation can qualify as seafood when people eat them. So, seafood is a broader term. In contrast, fish refers to only a part of this whole. However, we must say that fish is the most prominent type of seafood worldwide.

Seafood vs. Fish: Which Is Better?

If you are looking for a more diverse course of food, then not limiting yourself to just fish is appropriate. Seafood includes so much more than fish. 

For vegetarians and vegans, fish is strictly not an option. But when you extend the scope of your options to all seafood, vegetarians and vegans can enjoy certain items too. 

Additionally, fish are a primary source of protein and many essential fatty acids. And barring a few exceptions, those are the primary nutrients you will receive from eating only fish.

But if you include all forms of seafood in your diet, you can get a more comprehensive supply of all the essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Also, cooking with more than one type of seafood removes a lot of the monotony from only eating fish.

Seafood vs. Fish

Is Fish Considered Seafood?

Fish is considered a type of seafood. Fish is arguably the most popular form of seafood you can find worldwide. The practice of capturing and eating fish has been a part of human civilization from the beginning of civilization. And there are wide varieties of fish people consume worldwide regularly.

Is Seafood Considered Fish?

While fish constitutes a large portion of seafood in most of the world’s many cuisines, they are not the sole contributors. Seafood includes things such as crustaceans and mollusks, animals that are highly distinct from fish. Moreover, you have vegetation such as seaweed, Japanese nori, and kelp – all of which are vegetation rather than animals.

Therefore, you can safely consider any species of fish as seafood. But thinking that all seafood is a certain type of fish is just plain wrong.

What Seafood Is Not Fish?

So far, we have discussed how seafood and fish are not identical terms. Now, let’s look at some examples of non-fish seafood popular among people all over the world:

  • Crustaceans – lobster, crab, crawfish, shrimp, etc. 
  • Molluscs – clams, muscles, oysters, octopus, squid, etc
  • Echinoderms – Sea urchins, sea cucumber, etc.
  • Vegetation – seaweed, kelp, nori, etc.

None of the above examples fall in the fish category, and some are not even animals (seaweed, kelp). But people still consume and serve them like seafood, at home or in seafood-themed restaurants. 

Is Fish Considered Meat to a Vegetarian?

According to the British Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who refrains from eating any type of animal or by-product of animal slaughter. All species of fish fall under the kingdom of Animalia, which means fish is also considered meat to a vegetarian. Therefore, a vegetarian diet will exclude any form of fish and fish products.

Is Shrimp a Fish or Seafood?

Shrimp refers to a group of decapod (ten-legged) crustaceans that humans consume. They are closely related to prawns as both are crustaceans. Due to this classification, you cannot put shrimp in the same category as fish. Therefore, shrimp can be considered seafood but not fish.

Is Salmon Considered Seafood?

Salmon is a common name that refers to a group of ray-finned fish that belongs to the Salmonidae family of fish. And since all fish are seafood, it is fair to consider salmon as seafood. Salmon is one of the world’s most popular fish and, by extension, seafood dishes.

Is a Turtle a Seafood?

Many turtle species can be consumed, including most of their bodies except the lungs, gallbladder, skeleton, hard shell, and nails. Now, all turtles belong to the large class of animals known as reptilia. So, turtles are not technically fish or some sort of crustaceans. But, due to their close relation to water, turtles are considered seafood.

Is Sushi Considered Seafood?

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of vinegared rice (or sushi rice), usually wrapped with seaweed and is frequently accompanied by seafood and vegetables. Now, sushi does not always incorporate seafood. As such, sushi is not inherently a seafood dish. But wide popular varieties of sushi do include some sort of fish, which can be considered seafood. 

Is Snail Considered Seafood?

Snail is the name for shelled gastropods, which are all mollusks. And much like an octopus, clams, oysters, and other mollusks, snails are another type of non-fish seafood. People prepare them by frying them, cooking them in garlic, or pan-searing them. 

Do Vegans Eat Seafood?

In a sense, a vegan diet is a more extreme version of a vegetarian diet. Vegans avoid not just meat but all types of animal by-products. Now, seafood includes both animals and plants. So, vegans can eat plant-based seafood such as various seaweed and seafood substitutes. But actual fish, crustaceans, and other animal-based seafood are off-limits.

Is Seafood Healthier than Meat?

The nutritional value of seafood is quite different from meat. [1]  For example, seafood, especially fish, is a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and iodine. In contrast, red meat is a better source of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, etc. So, seafood dishes are not wholly superior to meat. They offer a different yet still essential set of nutrients to our bodies.

  • Laura Bais

    Laura Bais is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery food blog. From a young age, she had a passion for cooking, and at the age of 13, she made her first meal. After finishing high school, she undergraduates in Cultural Studies at the University of Rijeka, and graduates in Journalism a...