Freshwater Fish Safe Eating Guidelines
Fish are an important part of a healthy diet. However, some freshwater fish have PFAS, mercury, PCBs, and Dioxins in them. The Maine CDC issues safe eating guidelines for fish based on the presence of each of these chemicals. Follow the Mercury Guidelines, PFAS Guidelines, and Additional Guidelines below.
Mercury in Fish Guidelines
Warning: Mercury in Maine freshwater fish may harm the babies of pregnant and nursing mothers, and young children.
It's hard to believe that fish that looks, smells, and tastes fine may not be safe to eat. But the truth is that fish in Maine lakes, ponds, and rivers have mercury in them. Other states have this problem too. Mercury in the air settles into the waters. It then builds up in fish. For this reason, older fish have higher levels of mercury than younger fish. Fish (like pickerel and bass) that eat other fish have the highest mercury levels.
Safe Eating Guidelines: Mercury
|Pregnant and nursing women, women who may get pregnant, and children under age 8|
DO NOT EAT any freshwater fish from Maine's inland waters.
Except, for brook trout and landlocked salmon, 1 meal per month is safe.
|All other adults and children older than 8|
CAN EAT 2 freshwater fish meals per month.
For brook trout and landlocked salmon, the limit is 1 meal per week.
Small amounts of mercury can harm a brain starting to form or grow. That is why unborn and nursing babies, and young children are most at risk. Too much mercury can affect behavior and learning. Mercury can harm older children and adults, but it takes larger amounts. It may cause numbness in hands and feet or changes in vision. The Safe Eating Guidelines identify limits to protect everyone. Download the Maine Family Fish Guide for tips on buying, cooking, and catching fish low in mercury.
PFAS in Fish Guidelines
Fish tested in several locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above Maine CDC's recommended levels for regular consumption. Exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been associated with:
- changes in liver and kidney function,
- changes in cholesterol levels,
- decreased immune response to vaccines in children,
- complications during pregnancy, and
- increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.
Limit or eliminate consumption of all fish or certain fish species from these waterbodies.
|Albion||Fifteenmile Stream from the Yorktown Brook inlet at the Hussey Road to Route 137/202 in Albion||No more than 2 meals per month of brook trout.|
|China||All of China Lake||No more than 1 meal per month of any fish species.|
|Fairfield||Fish Brook, including any tributaries, from the headwaters to the confluence with Messalonskee Stream||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Fairfield||Police Athletic League (PAL) Ponds||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Fairfield||Kennebec River from the Carrabassett Stream inlet just north of Route 23 to the Lockwood Dam in Waterville||No more than 9 meals per year of smallmouth bass.|
|Limestone||All of Durepo Pond and Limestone Stream from Durepo to the Canadian border||No more than 4 meals per year of brook trout and do not eat smallmouth bass from these waters.|
|Sanford/Alfred||The Mousam River from below the Number One Pond Dam to Outlet Dam on Estes Lake, including all of Estes Lake||No more than 3 meals per year of any fish species.|
|Sanford||All of Number One Pond||No more than 1 meal per month of largemouth bass.|
|Thorndike/Unity||Halfmoon Stream from the Shikles Road in Thorndike to the Berry Road in Unity||No more than 2 meals per month of brook trout.|
|Unity||Unity Pond||No more than 6 meals per year of black crappie and no more than 12 meals per year for all other fish species.|
|Waterville/Oakland||Messalonskee Stream from the Rice Rips Dam in Oakland to the Automatic Dam in Waterville||No more than 3 fish meals per year of any fish species.|
|Westbrook/Falmouth||The Presumpscot River from Saccarappa Falls in Westbrook to Presumpscot Falls in Falmouth||No more than 4 fish meals per year of any fish species.|
Additional Fish Guidelines: PCBs, Dioxins, and DDT
- Fish caught in some Maine waters have high levels of PCBs, Dioxins or DDT in them.
- These chemicals can cause cancer and other health effects.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends additional fish consumption limits on the waters listed below. Remember to check the mercury guidelines. If the water you are fishing is listed below, check the mercury guideline above and follow the most limiting guidelines.
Safe Eating Guidelines: PCBs, Dioxins, and DDT
|Androscoggin River Gilead to Merrymeeting Bay:||No more than 6-12 meals a year of any fish species.|
|Dennys River Meddybemps Lake to Dead Stream:||No more than 1-2 meals per month of any fish species.|
|Green Pond, Chapman Pit, & Greenlaw Brook||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Little Madawaska River & tributaries(Madwaska Dam to Grimes Mill Road):||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Kennebec River Augusta to the Chops:||Do not eat any fish from these waters.|
|Shawmut Dam in Fairfield to Augusta:||No more than 5 meals per year of trout and no more than 1-2 bass meals per month.|
|Madison to Fairfield:||No more than 1-2 meals a month of any fish species.|
|Meduxnekeag River:||No more than 2 meals a month of any fish species.|
|North Branch Presque Isle River||No more than 2 meals a month of any fish species.|
|Penobscot River below Lincoln:||No more than 1-2 meals a month of any fish species.|
|Prestile Stream:||No more than 1 meal a month of any fish species|
|Red Brook in Scarborough:||No more than 6 meals a year of any fish species.|
|Salmon Falls River below Berwick:||No more than 6-12 meals a year of any fish species.|
|Sebasticook River (East Branch, West Branch & Main Stem)(Corinna/Hartland to Winslow):||No more than 2 meals a month of any fish species.|
PFAS in Fish Scientific Brief
Read the 2023 Scientific Brief (PDF) from Maine CDC about PFAS in recreationally caught freshwater fish.
Other Fish & Game Guidelines
Fish and Game Safe Eating Guidelines
Saltwater Fish Safe Eating Guidelines
Choose Fish Low in Mercury
Healthy Fish Preparation Methods