Freshwater Fish Safe Eating Guidelines

The Maine CDC issued new freshwater fish consumption advisories on seven waterbodies in Maine. The new advisories come after testing of fish in these locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above Maine CDC's recommended levels for regular consumption. View the table of PFAS Guidelines.
Download a tipsheet (PDF)
on frequently asked questions and answers about the new advisories. Read the Press Release.

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

Who Guidleines
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.

Safe Eating Guidelines: PFAS

Area Guidleines
Police Athletic League (PAL) Ponds in Fairfield: Do not eat any fish from these waters.
Fish Brook in Fairfield, including any tributaries, from the headwaters to the confluence with Messalonskee Stream: Do not eat any fish from these waters.
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.
All of Durepo Pond and Limestone Stream from Durepo to the dam near Route 229 in Limestone: No more than 3 fish meals per year of brook trout and do not eat smallmouth bass from these waters.
The Mousam River from below the Number One Pond Dam to Outlet Dam on Estes Lake, including all of Estes Lake in Sanford: No more than 3 fish meals per year of any fish species.
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.
Unity Pond in Unity: No more than 6 fish meals per year of black crappie and no more than 12 fish meals per year for all other fish species.

Additional Fish Guidelines: PCBs, Dioxins, and DDT

Warning: Some Maine waters are polluted, requiring additional limits to eating fish.

  • 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

Area Guidleines
Androscoggin River Gilead to Merrymeeting Bay: No more than 6-12 fish meals a year of any fish species.
Dennys River Meddybemps Lake to Dead Stream: No more than 1-2 fish meals per month of any fish species.
Green Pond, Chapman Pit, & Greenlaw Brook(Limestone): 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 trout meals per year and no more than 1-2 bass meals per month.
Madison to Fairfield: No more than 1-2 fish meals a month of any fish species.
Meduxnekeag River: No more than 2 fish meals a month of any fish species.
North Branch Presque Isle River No more than 2 fish meals a month of any fish species.
Penobscot River below Lincoln: No more than 1-2 fish meals a month of any fish species.
Prestile Stream: No more than 1 fish meal a month of any fish species
Red Brook in Scarborough: No more than 6 fish meals a year of any fish species.
Salmon Falls River below Berwick: No more than 6-12 fish meals a year of any fish species.
Sebasticook River (East Branch, West Branch & Main Stem)(Corinna/Hartland to Winslow): No more than 2 fish meals a month of any fish species.

Read about other Fish & Game Guidelines.