Posted by: mesabimisadventures | May 11, 2009

Got Mercury?

Fishing season has begun.

As predictable as the migration of waterfowl north is the migration of anglers to our northern lakes.  Some will fish purely for sport – hoping for that trophy, catching and releasing, catching and releasing, catching and releasing.

Others will catch their limit to bring home a meal or two for themselves and/or their family. They’ll go home, clean the fish, break out the Shore Lunch ® and then unwillingly consume a dose of mercury along with their dinner.


Yes – mercury. We’ve all seen or heard the headlines warning us about mercury in fish and seafood. They usually accompany other headlines that tell us how a healthy diet includes fish and seafood.

Confusing, isn’t it? 

Northern Minnesota lakes are considered “impaired waters” by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency because of their mercury content and its effect on fish consumption.

Unlike some harmful chemicals, such as PCBs, mercury cannot be removed from the fish by removing the fat. Mercury lodges itself in the muscle tissue and cannot be cooked out of the fish.

Why does this matter?

Mercury is a neurotoxin – simply put, it poisons your nervous system. The phrase “mad as a hatter” came about because hatters who used mercuric nitrate in the hat-making process often developed severe neurological problems and, upon death, some were even noted to have quarter-sized holes in their brains.

Obviously, mad hatters are an extreme case, but those of us who eat fish still need to use caution, especially pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, and children under the age of 15. As with any other chemical, the smaller you are, the greater the impact. Women of childbearing age need to be careful even if not pregnant because mercury accumulates in your bloodstream and is only slowly released from the body.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are both solid resources you can utilize to determine the amount of fish you can safely eat from Minnesota lakes. The limits are dependent on 1) what risk group you belong to 2) the lake or river and 3) what type of fish.

As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the fish and the lower on the food chain, the less mercury it contains.

Big fish eat little fish
which wiggle around inside ‘em
Little fish eat smaller fish
and so on ad infinitum

Keep the big fish mounted on top of the fireplace and the little fish in your belly.  Happy Fishing!

For fish consumption guidelines, please visit the following sites:

*Disclosure – I wrote this for the company newsletter, but it seemed fitting to have it on here too*


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