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Kosher Seafood: 11:9-12

In Leviticus 11:9, seafood ("all that are in the waters") is addressed. As was done for mammals, two criteria are given for fish also: whatever has "fins and scales"-- there are several words for scales in Hebrew, and this only referpermanent scales)-- may be eaten. The following verses describe seafood that does not have fins and scales as "an abomination," and commands the Israelites, "of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall detest.

For a fish to be kosher, the fins must be translucent and the scales easily detachable, i.e., removable without ripping the skin. In practice, kosher fish must have either ctenoid or cycloid scales.

  • Shark, catfish, octopus, squid, jellyfish, and eel are not kosher. All forms of shellfish - (clams, oysters, crab, lobster, and shrimp) - are not kosher. Sea mammals, such as dolphins, whales, and seals are not kosher.

  • Seaweed and other sea plant life are kosher, but require checking for infestation.
  • According to Torah tradition, swordfish and sturgeon are not kosher, as they have scales while young but lose them later. Some Conservative rabbis allow their consumption.
  • Fish is considered parve (neutral) and may be eaten at both meat and dairy meals.
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