How much pike from the Yukon Delta NWR should women and children eat? 

April 6, 2011

Mercury is a neurotoxin – at high levels it can damage the developing brain of babies (including babies in the womb) and children.  Mercury levels in most Alaska fish is low, so any health effects would be very subtle.  Still, health officials recommend a margin of safety to protect our children’s health.

Should I worry about eating fish?

Overall, mercury levels in Alaska fish are low, so the only people who need to think about limiting the amount of fish they eat are women who are or can become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children age 12 years and under.  Women and children can still get the benefits of eating fish choosing to eat fish that are low in mercury, like salmon.

Men, elders, and teenage boys are encouraged to eat unlimited amounts of most Alaska fish, including pike. 

The State of Alaska has developed guidelines for women and children in how much of each fish they can safely eat, based on the amount of mercury in a variety of fish species.  These guidelines:

  • Reflect guidelines developed by other states and national agencies.
  • Incorporate studies of dietary mercury effects on children.
  • Include a large safety factor, so do not have to be viewed as strict dietary limits.

Why study mercury in pike?

There is more of the toxic form of mercury – methylmercury – in older fish and fish that eat other fish, like large pike.  In this study, we measured mercury in pike muscle, from caught at traditional and well-used subsistence fishing sites.  We sharing this information with you because you live in area where people eat a lot of pike.