Seaturtles.org and its GotMercury.org campaign conducted a study of mercury levels in eight popular types of fish species caught and landed by California fisheries to present to the Ocean Protection Council. A key objective was to demonstrate the need for mercury and toxins to be addressed in the California Sustainable Seafood Initiative certification program for commercial fisheries in the state.
Forty samples of eight fish species were collected in 2011 and analyzed for mercury content at an accredited laboratory. This snapshot of mercury levels of California landed seafood was consistent with the findings outlined in other GotMercury.org investigations. As expected, the swordfish samples were quite high in mercury while other fish species such as sardines and squid had much lower levels of mercury.
One interesting finding was the mercury content of the Dungeness crab, which is classified as a lower mercury option by federal food safety officials with an average mercury content of 0.060 parts per million (ppm). The average mercury content of the Dungeness crab in this study was 0.192 ppm, considerably higher than the government mercury average.
• 100% of swordfish samples were over 1 ppm, posing potential health risks.
• The swordfish samples contained an average mercury level of 1.45 ppm, well above the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mercury action level of 1 ppm. To put that in perspective, if a 140-pound woman ate a six-ounce portion of swordfish at the mercury level of 1.45 ppm, her mercury level soars to 450 percent over federal mercury guidelines.
• The albacore samples contained an average mercury level of 0.318 ppm. If a 60-pound child consumed six ounces of tuna with the mercury level of 0.318 ppm, that child would be 276 percent over federal mercury guidelines.
• The crab samples registered mercury levels nearly forty percent over the FDA reported mercury level of 0.060 ppm.
• Three of the fish species: halibut, sablefish, squid had mercury levels lower than the FDA’s data.
Download the California Landed Seafood report in a pdf.