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Hey, anglers: The state wants to test your fish for mercury

A good day on the boat for this fisherman in North Hampton.
Dan Tuohy
A good day on the boat for this fisherman in North Hampton.

The state’s Department of Environmental Services is seeking fishermen willing to donate fish for the analysis of a highly toxic heavy metal that has “serious health risks if consumed in excessive amounts.”

Mercury doesn’t break down in the environment, and nearly all fish and shellfish have traces of it, the department says. Small amounts of mercury can damage a brain starting to grow or form, meaning babies and young children are most at risk.

According to the state’s latest report on mercury in fish tissue, the primary source of human-generated mercury pollution is via emissions into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, medical waste, and municipal waste.

DES has analyzed more than 4,000 fish for mercury amounts and concentration, resulting in a statewide fish consumption advisory and waterbody-specific fish consumption advisories where necessary. The advisories recommend meal sizes and frequency based on fish species, as well as whether a person is high or low risk.

Volunteers are asked to submit at least five fish within a year from a single waterbody, the species of most interest being yellow perch, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass. All fish must be captured and retained following regulations established by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

The DES Jody Connor Limnology Laboratory processes samples for free, and the data, which helps the state track trends and update advisories, is later added to the New Hampshire Lake Information Mapper.

Those interested in volunteering should see the Volunteers Collecting Fish For Mercury Analysis guidance document and contact Max Maynard at

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter.

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