Health and environment studies commence in Gippsland Lakes

Groups like the Gippsland Environment Group and environmentalists like Ross Scott and health professionals like Dr. Jo McCubbin have been raising concerns about the mercury levels in fish in the Gippsland Lakes for many years.

DELWP Media release

A study to assess mercury levels in fish of the Gippsland Lakes will commence from tomorrow, followed by a broader environmental study into the accumulation of mercury and other heavy metals in the sediment of the Lakes.

These studies will provide a baseline for any further work required to maintain the health of one of Victoria’s most important waterways.

The first study, which will commence from tomorrow (Monday 24 May), will involve the catching of 100 black bream and 100 dusky flathead across 10 sites.

These fish will be tested for levels of mercury in their flesh, and the results will be assessed against national food safety standards.

The study of mercury levels in the fish will be conducted in line with research conducted in 1980, 1998 and 2004, each of which found that mercury levels were well within food safety guidelines and safe to eat.

These new studies will address local community concerns raised late last year about mercury levels in fish and the Lakes more broadly.

Mercury is found in the flesh of most fish in all bodies of water, including the Gippsland Lakes and the ocean, and data provided to the Department of Health & Human Services late last year of fish purchased at a local fish and chip shop indicated that the mercury levels were well within health guidelines established in the Food Standards Code.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) does recommend limits to the number of fish portions that should be eaten each week, particularly for children and pregnant women, based on expected mercury levels. The Department of Health & Human Services recommends everyone abide by these standards.

The fish study will provide a comparison to the earlier research, and inform whether there is any immediate risk to public health from consumption of fish from the Lakes.

Black bream and dusky flathead – two of the most commonly-caught fish in the Gippsland Lakes – are not species that are in the high risk category for mercury accumulation, such as ocean going fish like sharks, marlin and swordfish.

The Gippsland community, including professional fishers, has been consulted about the research, and the fishermen will participate by catching the fish for the study. Professional fishers also participate in the annual algae monitoring in the Lakes.

These studies are joint initiatives of the Department of Health & Human Services, the Environment Protection Authority, Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning, Fisheries Victoria, the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources and Primesafe.

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