Since 2002, the Commission has been working cooperatively with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) in a project monitoring environmental contaminants in Alaskan fish. The fish being studied include salmon (5 species), sheefish, pike, pollock, pacific cod, lingcod, black rockfish, sablefish, and halibut. The fish are analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, dioxins, furans, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PCB congeners, methyl mercury and heavy metals (arsenic, selenium, lead, cadmium, nickel, and chromium). Results from these studies are used to identify ADEC's future research needs.
To date, 2,088 samples have been tested by ADEC. The mean level of total mercury for these samples has been 0.309 ppm (for comparison, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limit of concern is based on methyl mercury (~85% of total mercury) levels of 1.000 ppm, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) level of concern is 0.500 ppm) ranging from non-detectable to 2.000 ppm. Results from analysis of persistant organic pollutants (POP's - pesticides, selected PCB congeners, dioxins, and furans etc) found that in general these compounds are either undetectable in halibut or well below other marine fish species. This is a positive finding and is likely attributable to the lower fat content in halibut compared to these other species.
Analysis by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has found that most species of Alaska fish contain mercury levels that are too low to constitute a health risk. However, some Alaska fish species are consistently found to have elevated mercury levels; as such, consumption restrictions for these species are warranted for pregnant women, women of childbearing age that may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children.
To find out more information on this topic, please follow one of the links listed below:
Specific contaminant level results and guidelines can be found on ADEC's Fish Monitoring Program website:
Fish Consumption Advice (AK Department of Health and Social Services):
State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin (July 21, 2014 release):
IPHC report on total mercury in Pacific halibut:
Other health topics
We continue to work with partner agencies on other fish health/pathology related topics such as: