Most locally-caught fish are a healthful, low-fat source of protein and can be safely eaten. However, consumption of some fish should be limited. For this reason, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) issues the Michigan Fish Advisory to help people choose fish that are low in mercury and other contaminants.
"With the evidence of increasing mercury levels in some areas, it's important for local residents to consult the Michigan Fish Advisory when deciding which fish to consume," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
Unlike other chemicals sometimes found in fish, you cannot reduce the amount of mercury in fish by cleaning and cooking it a certain way. You also cannot see or taste mercury in fish. The only way to detect mercury in fish is by having it tested by a laboratory.
This is why filets from fish taken from lakes and rivers around the state are tested each year for mercury and other chemicals at the MDCH Laboratory. The results from these tests allow MDCH to determine which species of fish are more likely to have higher levels of mercury than others.
MDCH uses the test results from the fish filets to develop consumption advice that protects everyone who eats the fish. The results, published in the Michigan Fish Advisory, can help you choose fish that are safe to eat for your entire family. Since Michigan has more than 11,000 lakes, streams and rivers to fish in, not all bodies of water have had fish tested for mercury. The MDCH Statewide Mercury Advisory provides general information on safe fish to eat from lakes that have not been tested and included in the Michigan Fish Advisory. You can use the MDCH Eat 8 tool to help you select store-bought fish that are lower in mercury. Eat 8 features commonly purchased fish that have been assigned points based on the amount of mercury reported by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Eat eight points or less per month to stay within the accepted limits of mercury consumption to avoid health effects.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For a copy of the Michigan Fish Advisory and the Eat 8 Tool, visit www.nwhealth.org.