Recreational fishing

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Mercury in fish

Fish is an important part of a healthy diet providing many nutritional benefits. However, some varieties of fish (commercially available or caught recreationally) may contain high levels of mercury. 

Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy, and children under 6 years should limit the number of servings they eat of fish containing high levels of mercury. This is because the developing brain of the unborn child and young children are sensitive to mercury exposure.

People take in small amounts of mercury in their diet from eating fish. In most fish, the levels are very low. However, some varieties contain high levels of mercury due to their feeding habits or surrounding environment.

In freshwater environments containing mercury, some species of fish may contain high levels of mercury. This is more likely in fish that are predatory (eat other fish) and that live a long time in mercury-containing environments.

The Better Health Channel has information available about mercury in fish and broader information about eating your recreational fishing catch with care.

Limit intake of fish containing high levels of mercury

The developing brain is sensitive to the effects of high mercury exposure.

It is therefore important that pregnant women, women planning pregnancy and young children (up to six years of age) limit their weekly intake of fish varieties known to contain high levels of mercury.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand provides advice on the number of serves of different types of commercially sold fish (shark, ray, swordfish, barramundi, gemfish, orange roughy, ling and southern bluefin tuna) that can be safely consumed. This information is available on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.

Information on specific sites

Information is available from studies done on the mercury levels of recreationally caught fish. More information is available on the following locations:

Gippsland Lakes

A study of mercury levels in Gippsland Lakes reassures communities that fish from the lakes are safe to eat. 

Lake Eildon

The Upper Goulburn River (above Lake Eildon), Big River  and Howqua River catchments have been associated with gold mining. Mercury has been found in river bed sediments and in some fish at these locations as a result.

Loddon River

Slightly elevated levels of mercury have been found in fish from the Loddon River between Laanecoorie and Bridgewater. The fish species involved include redfin, Murray cod, golden perch and common carp.


EPA has released information about per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) found in fish at these sites:

Page last updated on 20 Feb 2020