Mercury in fish

People can safely eat two to three serves of most kinds of fish each week. Some types of fish should be limited because of higher mercury levels.

Benefits of eating fish

Fish should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. It is high in protein, nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fats.

About mercury

  • eating too much mercury can damage the nervous system, especially for babies in the womb and young children
  • all fish contain small amounts of mercury
  • some species of fish have higher levels of mercury than others.

Limiting fish intake

You should limit your intake of high mercury foods if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Young children should also avoid eating too much high mercury foods.

Specific advice is provided below.

Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy - 1 serve equals 150g:

  • 2 to 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below, or
  • 1 serve per week of orange roughy (sea perch) or catfish 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.

Children (up to 6 years) - 1 serve equals 75g:

  • 2 to 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below, or
  • 1 serve per week of orange roughy (sea perch) or catfish 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.

Rest of the population - 1 serve equals 150g:

  • 2 to 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed in the column below, or
  • 1 serve per week of shark (flake) or billfish (swordfish, broadbill and marlin) and no other fish that week.

Fish with low mercury levels

Low mercury fish include:

  • Atlantic salmon
  • canned salmon
  • canned tuna in oil
  • canned mackerel
  • herrings
  • sardines
  • silver warehou.

If you are not sure about the type of fish you are buying, ask the retailer and confirm the name of the fish being supplied.

Other seafood with lower mercury levels includes:

  • prawns
  • snapper
  • trevally
  • trout
  • bream
  • garfish
  • squid and octopus
  • whiting
  • anchovy
  • mullet.

Eating more than three serves of fish per week

Eating more than three serves of fish per week is not a problem for most people, but it is not recommended.

You need to eat a lot of high mercury-containing fish before harmful effects occur.

If you choose to eat more than three serves of fish per week, it is important to eat a variety of fish and avoid those that could have high mercury levels.

For more information contact Environmental Health.

Last updated: 13 October 2017