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Mercury Contamination in Fish

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Ten Sportfish Highest in Mercury

The United States is blessed with nearly 39.9 million acres of freshwater inland lakes and reservoirs, 23,000 miles of ocean shoreline (excluding Alaska), more than 5,500 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and 300,000 miles of rivers. More than 33 million people fish in U.S. waters, generating more than $100 billion in revenue every year. In addition, subsistence fishing is a way of life for many Americans.

What many people who fish for fun or subsistence may not know is that almost all state health departments have issued warnings about eating fish caught in certain lakes, rivers and coastal areas because of the levels of mercury contained in the fish. Forty-five states have issued at least one fish consumption advisory for a water body within their jurisdiction because of mercury, and 19 states have issued statewide fish consumption advisories.

The following sportfish tend to be highest in mercury, based upon the number of fish advisories reported to the Environmental Protection Agency. To learn about sources of mercury and fish advisories in your area, see the Know Where It's Coming From section of this site.

Ten Sportfish Highest in Mercury
Fish Species Number of Mercury
Advisories Nationwide
Northern Pike 2,291
Walleye 2,263
Largemouth Bass 1,172
White Sucker 641
Bluegill Sunfish 520
Yellow Perch 405
Smallmouth Bass 380
Black Crappie 346
Channel Catfish 307
Common Carp 248

SOURCES
U.S. waters: The EPA, Office of Water, National Water Quality Inventory: 1998 Report to Congress, June 2000 (EPA 841-S-00-001).

Fishing revenue: Fishing.com; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

State fish consumption advisories: The EPA, Office of Water, National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories, May 2003 (EPA-823-F-03-003).

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