Department of Health

Gippsland Lakes fish get the 'all clear'

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

A study to assess mercury levels in fish of the Gippsland Lakes has found the levels continue to be well within health guideline values.

The Department of Health and Human Services commenced the study in May, which involved the analysis of 90 black bream and 20 dusky flathead from selected sites across the Lakes.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer Professor Michael Ackland said the results are in line with studies conducted over the last 35 years.

“These fish were tested for levels of mercury in their flesh, and the results assessed against national food safety standards,” Prof Ackland said.

“Local residents and visitors can be confident that fish caught in the Gippsland Lakes are safe to eat.”

The study followed local community concerns raised late last year about mercury levels in fish and the Gippsland Lakes more broadly.

“As we expected, mercury was found in the flesh of the fish which were tested, but that’s because mercury is present in fish in all bodies of water, including the Gippsland Lakes and the ocean,” Prof Ackland said.

“Our testing shows that the mercury levels are well within health guidelines set out in the Food Standards Code, and I am satisfied that fish from the Gippsland Lakes continue to be wholesome and safe to eat.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommends limits to the number of fish portions that should be eaten each week, particularly for children and pregnant women, based on expected mercury levels present in the fish.

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends everyone follow these recommendations.

FSANZ advises that people can safely eat 2-3 serves a week of most types of fish, particularly all species that can be in the Gippsland Lakes.

Black bream and dusky flathead – two of the most commonly-caught fish in the Gippsland Lakes – are not species that are in the high risk category for mercury accumulation, such as ocean going fish like sharks, marlin and swordfish.

The Gippsland community, including professional fishers, were consulted about the study and professional fishers also participate in the annual algae monitoring in the Lakes.

The fish study was a joint initiative of the Department of Health & Human Services, the Environment Protection Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning, Fisheries Victoria, the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources and Primesafe.

Previous research studies were conducted in 1980, 1998 and 2004, which all found mercury levels were well within food safety guidelines and safe to eat.

The latest results provide a comparison to the earlier research, and will provide a further baseline for any future work that may be considered.

Reviewed 28 August 2015


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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