Northern Territory

Results of fish testing at the Daly River released

The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) has released the results of testing of fish from the Daly River for per- and poly-fluoroalkylated substances (PFAS).

DPIR commissioned Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to analyse 12 fish samples from the Daly River in response to concerns that fish may migrate downstream from the Katherine investigative area.

FSANZ is the food standards setting body in Australia and has previously produced national advice for fish consumption based on potential harm associated with naturally occurring mercury.

The report found that many serves of Daly River fish can be eaten before reaching the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI), but due to health concerns about naturally occurring mercury levels in fish people should limit their consumption.

The results showed:

  • all barramundi tested were well below the FSANZ trigger values
  • mullet testing did exceed the FSANZ trigger vale on a per kg basis (but given the size of an average fish serve an adult would need to eat seven serves a week to exceed TDIs).

DPIR Fisheries General Manager Ian Curnow said when all fish species analysed were considered together the median PFOS+PFHxS combined concentration was 4.3 µg/kg, which was less than the national trigger level of 5.2 µg/kg for further investigation.

Although mullet samples did exceed the FSANZ trigger value, in terms of serving, a person would need to eat seven serves of mullet per week before reaching the tolerable daily intake limit.

The Daly results indicate overall that when individuals followed the national advice on fish consumption from FSANZ, the consumption of a range of these fish species over time is unlikely to present a public health and safety concern.

Department of Health Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said this report would provide reassurance to residents and tourists who fish the Daly River and thanked FSANZ for their expert advice.

“The results from this small investigation conclude that exposure to PFAS from consumption of a range of Daly River barramundi, catfish and mullet over time is unlikely to present a public health and safety concern.

“People are encouraged to stick to the national advice on fish consumption from FSANZ who recommend that due to health concerns regarding naturally occurring mercury levels in fish, people limit their consumption of fish to a three 150gm serves a week for the adult population and two 150g serves for pregnant women and two 75gm serves for children.”

DPIR provided PFAS analytical data to FSANZ for 12 fish caught in the Daly River in November 2017.  Fish flesh was analysed for all 12 samples as well as five barramundi liver samples.

Source: NT Government