Mercury and Seafood

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Mercury & Seafood

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and accumulates in the aquatic food chain, including fish, as methyl-mercury. This means all fish contain some methyl-mercury. The good news is that most fish in Australian waters have very low mercury levels. It is important to note that mercury from fish is generally not a health consideration for most people – it is only an issue for women planning pregnancy, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under six.

Should women eat seafood during pregnancy?

Yes! Fish is a highly nutritious food. As mentioned, fish is an excellent source of nutrients such as Omega 3 as well as vitamins. These nutrients provide important health benefits for you and your baby. Fish are a valuable source of protein, minerals, vitamin B12, iodine, and are low in saturated fat. By being informed about mercury and knowing the kinds of fish to limit (see table), you can avoid any potential harm from mercury while enjoying the many health benefits of fish.

Pregnant & breastfeeding women & women planning pregnancy1 serve equals 150g Children (up to 6 years)
1 serve equals 75g
2-3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below
OR
1 serve per fortnight of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Broadbill, Swordfish and Marlin) and no other fish that fortnight
OR
1 serve per week of Orange Roughy (Deep Sea Perch) or Catfish and no other fish that week

Fish that have much lower mercury levels and are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids include:

  • Mackerel;
  • Silver Warehou;
  • Atlantic Salmon;
  • Canned Salmon & canned tuna in oil;
  • Herrings and
  • Sardines

Other fish with low mercury levels include:

  • All prawns, lobsters and bugs;
  • All squids and octopus:
  • Snapper;
  • Salmon and trout;
  • Trevally;
  • Whiting;
  • Herring, Anchovy;
  • Bream;
  • Mullet;
  • Garfish.

These fish can be eaten more frequently – two to three times per week.

For more information and advice on mercury in seafood:

Mercury in Fish – Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Fish and mercury FAQ – NSW Food Authority

Fish for Kids Guide – NSW Food Authority