The Facts

When the subject of possible health hazards from methylmercury in fish comes up in media reports, the seafood lobby often responds aggressively with its own strongly held point of view. They assert that most of the facts reported by journalists are not true: In their version of reality, the benefits of eating fish are enormous, the risk from mercury exposure is trivial, there is a huge margin of safety between possible exposures and levels that pose any risk, no one has ever been harmed by methylmercury in commercially sold fish, and mercury warnings harm public health by discouraging fish consumption.

Media professionals and ordinary consumers confronted by scientific assessments of risk on the one hand and vehement industry denials on the other can easily become confused. Confusion and doubt are, in fact, the intended products of the seafood lobby’s public-relations efforts. But most of their claims are fish stories—exaggerations, distortions, or outright fabrications. For people not familiar with the scientific evidence on fish and mercury risks and benefits, sorting out facts from fables can be difficult.

As a public service, we have collected here the facts on critical issues that often arise in discussions of mercury in fish. We explain each issue in simple language, presenting the seafood lobby’s fables and our responses, based on the facts.

We invite you to browse the topics listed to the left for concise summaries of each issue, with links to more detailed information. Or, choose a seafood lobby Fable to get the facts on that particular issue.