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Mercury in fish

(Last updated September 2011)

Fish is an excellent source of protein.

Low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat and omega 3 oils, fish is also a rich source of iodine so everyone, especially pregnant women, should regularly include fish in their diet.

People can safely eat 2–3 serves a week of most types of fish. However, because of the presence of higher levels of mercury in some fish there are a few types you should limit in your diet, especially if you are pregnant.

Pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children should eat shark (flake), broadbill, marlin and swordfish no more than once a fortnight and should not eat any other fish during that fortnight. Orange roughy and catfish should be eaten no more than once a week, and no other fish should be eaten during that week. The general population should also only eat shark (flake), broadbill, marlin and swordfish once per week and no other fish that week.

The named fish may contain more mercury than other species because they are long living fish and/or predators and can accumulate higher levels of mercury by eating other fish.

Mercury is an element found both naturally and as an introduced contaminant. It tends to affect the nervous system, and the developing nervous system in the unborn baby is particularly sensitive to mercury. However, it’s important to remember the unborn baby is generally only exposed to low mercury levels through its mother’s diet.

Number of serves of different types of fish you can safely eat 

Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy

1 serve equals 150 grams#

Children (up to 6 years)


1 serve equals 75 grams #

Rest of the population

 

1 serve equals 150 grams #

2 – 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below

2 – 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed in the column below

OR

OR

1 serve per week of Orange Roughy (Sea Perch) or Catfish and no other fish that week

1 serve per week of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish / Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that week

OR

 

1 serve per fortnight of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish / Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that fortnight

 

. # A 150 gram serve for adults and older children is equivalent to approximately two frozen crumbed fish portions.

A 75 gram serve for children is approximately three fish fingers (Hake or Hoki is used in fish fingers).

Canned fish is sold in various sizes; for example, the snack- size cans of tuna are approximately 95 grams.

If you are in doubt about the type of fish or boneless fish fillets you are buying, ask the retailer and confirm the name of the fish being supplied. This also applies when eating out.

Download: Mercury in fish brochure (pdf 73 kb)

More information

Background to the mercury in fish advisory statement

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