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Fishing in Sydney Harbour

Previous test results have revealed elevated levels of dioxins in fish and crustaceans across Sydney Harbour, including Parramatta River and other connected tidal waterways. A ban was consequently placed on commercial fishing in 2006 as a precautionary measure.

Recreational fishing in the Harbour has not been banned, but fishers are urged to follow dietary advice on the consumption of seafood from the Sydney Harbour, Parramatta River and other connected tidal waterways. Fishers can also continue to practise catch and release. Based on advice from an expert panel, the Government is recommending that:

  • No fish or crustaceans caught west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge should be eaten. You should release your catch.
  • For fish caught east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge generally no more than 150 grams per month should be consumed.
  • Testing of popular species has allowed for more accurate dietary advice.

The table below provides advice on the maximum consumption of single species:

Recommended maximum intake based on eating a single species caught east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
SpeciesNumber of 150 g servesAmounts per month
Prawns*4 per month600 g
Crab5 per month750 g
Bream1 per month150 g
Flounder12 per month1800 g
Kingfish12 per month1800 g
Luderick12 per month1800 g
Sand Whiting8 per month1200 g
Sea Mullet1 every 3 months50 g
Silver Biddle1 per month150 g
Silver Trevally5 per month750 g
Tailor1 per month150 g
Trumpeter Whiting12 per month1800 g
Yellowtail Scad8 per month1200 g
Squid4 per month600 g
Dusky Flathead12 per month1800 g
Fanbellied Leatherjacket24 per month3600 g

Important Note: This advice is provided if one single species is being eaten. For example, eating 150 grams of Bream and 600 grams of Prawns in one month would exceed the recommended intake. Eating 300 g Prawns, 300g Sand Whiting and 300g Yellowtail Scad in one month would equal the recommended maximum intake.

Questions and answers on dioxins in fish and crustaceans in Sydney Harbour

A total ban was placed on commercial fishing in 2006 as a precautionary measure after test results revealed elevated levels of dioxin in a number of species of fish and crustaceans in Sydney Harbour.

Dioxins are a group of chlorinated compounds produced unintentionally by industrial processes, as well as through some natural processes, such as bushfires. Dioxins are found in low levels in the normal Australian diet and at these low levels present no known health risk. A recent national study concluded that the exposure to dioxins in Australia is generally lower than in other countries. Australian Health authorities have established a "safe" intake level of dioxin. This level has been set to protect individuals from health concerns including cancer.

Residues of dioxins in seafood caught in the Harbour/Parramatta River are likely to have their sources in contaminated sediments in or near Homebush Bay. Current levels are likely due to many years of industrial activities along those waterways. Millions of dollars are being spent on cleaning up contaminated sediments in the affected areas.

All commercial fishing is banned in the Harbour, including prawn trawling. Multilingual warning signs have been erected around the Harbour and a multilingual brochure  is being distributed to warn recreational fishers of the dangers of consuming fish and crustaceans taken from the Harbour. Information is being provided to all one year and three year fishing fee receipt holders, fishing clubs, and charter boat operators.

Recreational fishing in the Harbour has not been banned, but fishers are urged to follow dietary advice on the consumption of seafood from the Sydney Harbour, Parramatta River and other connected tidal waterways. Fishers can also continue to practise catch and release.

The NSW Government has provided recommended maximum intake.

It is considered to be safe to undertake boating activities and swim in the Harbour. Water quality in the Harbour is the cleanest it has been in decades. The issue is with sediments on the harbour floor, which have been exposed to industrial pollution dating back over the past 100 years, and the migratory patterns of fish from polluted areas like Homebush Bay into the cleaner waters of the Harbour.