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Fish and Mercury

August 5, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

shelled shrimp with tails


Canada's Food Guide recommends that adults eat at least two servings of fish each week.  

Here’s some advice on meeting that guideline - while avoiding potentially harmful levels of mercury. 

Fish provides many nutrients such as protein, selenium, vitamin D, magnesium and iron. It also provides healthy omega-3 fats, which are good for your brain and heart. Omega-3 fats are especially important for brain and eye development in babies and children.

Avoiding Mercury: Choose fish low in mercury, such as salmon, rainbow trout, Atlantic mackerel, sole or Dover sole. Do not have more than two servings per month of Bigeye (Ahi) tuna, shark, marlin or swordfish.One Canada's Food Guide serving of fish is 75 grams (2 ½ ounces) or 125 mL (½ cup).
While eating fish has health benefits, mercury is present in various levels in different types of fish. It cannot be removed by cleaning, preparing or cooking. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies and children are the most at risk from higher levels of mercury, which may have harmful effects on the nervous system, including the brain.

To minimize exposure to mercury while still getting the health benefits of fish:

  • Limit the following fish to no more than two servings per month: fresh or frozen tuna, shark, marlin, swordfish, escolar and orange roughy.
  • Limit canned albacore (white) tuna to no more than two servings per week.

Mercury levels in fish from B.C. lakes and streams are not usually tested because the risk of mercury contamination is normally low. Only three lakes in B.C. have mercury advisories: Jack of Clubs, Pinchi and Williston Lakes. For more information see the Fish and Wildlife Branch website or phone (250) 387-9711.

Other than the fish listed here, there are no other limits placed on any fish sold in Canada in terms of mercury levels. Canada’s Food Guide recommends a balanced diet that includes choosing a variety of different foods, including fish.

Resources & Links: 

HealthLink BC: Healthy Eating: Mercury in Fish
HealthLink BC: Avoiding Mercury in Fish 


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