Women Advised Not to Eat Thingvellir Brown Trout Skip to content

Women Advised Not to Eat Thingvellir Brown Trout

Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and even all women of childbearing age in general are advised not to eat brown trout from Thingvallavatn lake more often than two or three times a year because it contains a high amount of mercury.


Fishing in Thingvallavatn. Foto: Páll Stefánsson.

Jóhannes Sturlaugsson, who has studied the brown trout of Thingvallavatn for more than a decade, told Morgunbladid that even though the fish is certainly edible, it can prove unhealthy for a certain group of people.

Sturlaugsson wrote a report on this subject in 2009 in cooperation with Matís, an independent food research institute.

“There is in fact reason enough to write a report like this ten times over. Preventing even one woman from accidently harming her child by causing abnormal development as a result of eating the fish is enough to justify the report,” he said.

The brown trout in Thingvallavatn feeds on planktivorous char which are found in large quantities in the lake. Mercury accumulates in the small fish so the amount of mercury multiplies in the brown trout when it feeds on them.

“Although there isn’t a specific problem in the environment, the course of events is just this way, that the brown trout eats fish which has accumulated the chemical for a few years. It might eat more than one plaktivirous char per day. This way the brown trout surpasses the guideline limit, both according to our regulations and those of the European Union,” Sturlaugsson explained.

Mercury is carried to Thingvallavatn, which is the largest lake in Iceland, in the same manner as it gets carried to other lakes.

“Mercury comes with the rain on the one hand from the industry in countries to the south of us and on the other from geothermal activity with ground water. It has been measured and always seems to be within normal levels in the lake,” Sturlaugsson stated.

He added his research shows that brown trout from Thingvallavatn which are longer than 60 centimeters are likely to contain mercury in excess of permitted guidelines for food distribution, so the guidelines also have an effect on the protection of the fish stock.

“If people know about this it is also an encouragement to release the large fish so that they can participate in spawning more often. People should rather catch the small fish and enjoy eating them,” Sturlaugsson concluded.

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