A Sampling of Unusual Seafood Rules the World Over


Rules, rules, rules. They’re everywhere and everyone runs into trouble with one at some point or another. And yet, we need them to avoid total chaos. While some rules take the form of actual laws, others are more subtle points of etiquette that can still pack quite a clout if you fall into breaking one. The world of seafood is no exception to any of this – or to the reality that some rules can seem quirky to unnecessary to downright insane. Here are some examples of unusual fish, marine, and seafood rules from around our country and the world.

A Massachusetts crime scene.

A law that was seriously considered in Maine but was never made official would have made it illegal to put tomato in clam chowder12. In Massachusetts, though, the law passed5!  We know how serious we New Englanders are about our clam chowder.

If you’re going for a swim off Maryland and decide to eat some of the bag of chips that you smuggled off the beach, you’re in trouble! A Maryland law forbids you to eat while you swim in the ocean6.

Maryland also has many… different laws surrounding oysters. Oyster damage is illegal. There are also laws on how you can and cannot dispose of oyster shells6.¬†There is more than one additional law to dictate how to treat an oyster shell. For example, you can’t use an oyster shell in making a new road nor can you feed oyster shells to chickens12.

When you’ve eaten all of the side of a fish served in China, don’t flip the fish over to begin eating the other side – at least not if you’re eating with locals on the coast. In lieu of this, take out the bones to reach the rest of the fish from above. This rule of etiquette was developed by fishermen who considered fish served to be symbolic of their boats. Consequently, to flip the fish over would symbolize the capsizing of the boat7.

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to catch fish using dynamite. It is also specified that the mouth, and no other part of ones body, may be used to catch fish in this state5.

In Kansas, however, it seems bare hands are the only body parts with which it is illegal to catch fish5.

In Tennesee, catching a fish using a lasso is against the law5.

Don’t plan on bringing fishing tackle with you during your next visit to a cemetery in Muncie, Indiana – it’s illegal to do 5.


In Scotland fishing on a Sunday is forbidden5.

If it’s Sunday, this Scotish person has found a legal alternative to fishing!

Men in Montana should pack their knitting projects away during the fishing season, since it is illegal for them to knit during this time 5.

Another Montana law dictates that a married woman must not fish alone on a Sunday, and an unmarried woman may never fish alone5.

In Vermont it is a crime to whistle underwater5.

It’s illegal to fish for whales on Sunday in Ohio. Think about this one for a moment5.

If you’re in Oklahoma or Seattle and you need to move your occupied fish tank, be advised that you can’t take a public bus! This is illegal as the water’s splashing sounds might upset others on the bus5.

Despite our custom in the US of sprinkling parmesan cheese on pasta, in Italy a diner is never supposed to put parmesan cheese on any pasta that has seafood in it – or on risotto1. Meanwhile, Italian pizzarias often make pizzas with seafood toppings and are not considered to be out of line in doing so1.

In Idaho, it is illegal to fish from any animal’s back12.

In New Jersey there is a law against slurping soup. Eat your lobster bisque silently and with care12.

There is a law forbidding removing seaweed from the beach during the night in New Hampshire. Bad news for anyone who wants to make sushi10.

There is a widely held belief that Ohio has a law criminalizing getting a fish drunk. On the website “justanswer Legal” an unnamed person asks why this is a law and how the rule came to exist. The two legal experts who answered the question were divided. One, “Walter13“, confirmed that it is illegal to inebriate a fish in Ohio and that the law began in the 1950’s – but had little other information. The other, “Nicole Schave13“, denied that the law exists and says that it is either entirely fictional or some off – the – wall interpretation of a water pollution law 13.

This controversy over whether or not the drunken fish law is real brings up an important point about the laws in this post. While researching for this post I noticed that a few of these laws are claimed to be exaggerations or false by certain people while others assert that they are genuine. As for whether or not I am telling you that the laws in this post are all official, I can’t. This post is simply meant to entertain by describing some zany rules. The ideas of these laws do exist and are believed in by many. This post is not intended to assert that the laws are officially on the books or enforced.

Japanese sushi shop etiquette involves a lot of rules that might be surprising to Americans. One such rule says that it is wrong to mention another sushi shop by its name or the chef of a different sushi shop. If you have special dietary

Be careful not to be rude if you are at a Japanese sushi shop! There are many etiquette rules.

needs that affect what ingredients can be in your meal at a high – end sushi shop, make it known before the day that you arrive – such as when you make your reservation. This is because chefs at these sushi shops plan out the ingredients for each dish far in advance and it is considered rude to make them change the recipe on the day it is served8.

It is considered impolite to ask for a condiment on its own to go with a meal ordered at a high – end sushi shop if the chef does not offer it. Instead make the assumption that the dish is not meant to be served with that condiment. It is also thought of as rude to wear perfume, cologne, or anything else scented (even hair products with a strong aroma) to a sushi shop (People have been kicked out of sushi shops for this!). Strong scents can spoil the meal for others at the shop as they interfere with the subtle tastes and fragrances of the food8.

The incredibly delicious gelato is one of the only foods that one can walk while eating, based on Italian etiquette.

One is never supposed to eat seafood or any other food while walking in Italy – though it is okay to stand still while eating if no chair is available. The one exception to this rule is gelato, which people often consume whilst walking through the streets1.

In Georgia, residing on a boat for over thirty days in a year is illegal. People not from the state who just happen to have their boats there are not exempt11.

Also in Georgia, you cannot give someone a goldfish to try to persuade him or her to play a bingo game11.

As strange as some of these regulations are, they were created for what were considered legitimate reasons at those times. One can only imagine the bizarre tales that brought some of these directives into being!




Works Cited
1. Browne, Patrick.Bizarre Italian food rules foreigners fall foul of”.
THE LOCAL it, 22 April 2016, www.thelocal.it/20160422/bizarre-italian-food-rules-foreigners-fall-foul-of.

2. Leff, David K. “Once Strict ‘Blue Laws’ Have Largely Faded”.
The Hartford Courant, 25 Feb. 2015, http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-leff-blue-laws-connecticut-0226-20150225-story.

3. Ryan, Lydia. “A Look at some of Connecticut’s Blue Laws”.
ctpost, 29 Oct. 2015, https://www.ctpost.com/living/article/A-look-at-some-of-Connecticut-s-Blue-Laws-6598583.php.

Singlebarbed, 5 Jun. 2009, http://singlebarbed.com/2009/06/05/stranger-than-fiction-odd-fishing-laws-still-on-the-books.

5. “Dumb Laws in Massachusetts”.
Retrieved 13 July 2018.

6. Stephenson, Mitchelle. “Crazy Maryland Laws You’ve Probably Violated”.
Westminster Patch, 21 Mar. 2011, patch.com/maryland/westminster/crazy-maryland-laws-that-youve-probably-violated.

7. Wang, Kimberly. “23 Etiquette Tips You Need To Know Before Eating At A Real Chinese Restaurant”.
Buzzfeed, 27 Mar 2014, www.buzzfeed.com/kimberlywang/etiquette-tips-you-need-to-know-before-eating-at-a-chinese-r?utm_term=.igLNYaXJN#.xj3QzpgwQ.

8. “Sushi Etiquette 101”.
BOUTIQUE JAPAN, boutiquejapan.com/sushi-etiquette/.
Retrieved 14 Jul. 2018.

9. “Dumb Laws in New Hampshire”.

Retrieved 14 Jul. 2018.

10. “Category Archives: New Hampshire”.

Retrieved 15 Jul. 2018.

11. “Dumb Laws in Georgia”.
dumblaws.com, www.dumblaws.com/laws/united-states/georgia.
Retrieved 15 Jul. 2015.

12. Kumer, Emma. “The Strangest Food Laws in Every State”.
Taste of Home, https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/we-found-weird-laws-about-food-from-every-state/view-all/.
Retrieved 15 8 Jul. 2018.

13. Walter and Nicole Schave. “Why is it illegal to get a fish drunk And how did this…”.
justanswerLegal, 14 Nov. 2007, https://www.justanswer.com/law/0xudy-illegal-fish-drunk.html.
Retrieved 15 Jul. 2018.

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