National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research
Research on nutrition;
feed for fish and fish as food

Low levels of mercury in species surrounding the wrecked cargo vessel Orizaba

New analyses of cusk, mussels and whelk around the wreck at Skjervøy in Troms, Norway, show mercury levels below EU’s maximum levels. However, additional analyses show a concentration of cadmium in common whelk above EU`s maximum limits.


In 1940 the cargo ship Orizaba ran aground on the Skjervøy reef at Skjervøy in Troms.

The cargo vessel had mercury on board. The National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) analyzed cusk (Brosme brosme), blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and whelk (Buccinum undatum) for mercury in 2008 for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. The analyses were done in order to examine whether species around the vessel were affected by mercury.

Low mercury values

Results showed that cusk and mussels caught close to the vessel did not have concentrations of mercury higher than what is normal for these species. For the whelk there was insufficient background data to conclude in relation to normal levels. All species had mercury levels below the EU’s maximum levels.

High concentration of cadmium in whelk

Additional analyses showed that whelk had two to three times the level of cadmium compared to the EU maximum level for cadmium in molluscs. A higher concentration of cadmium than normal in blue mussel also indicates that there is more cadmium in this environment than in many other locations along the coast. Results also show that whelk accumulate more cadmium from the environment than blue mussel. Additional data is required in order to document which locations along the coast are suitable for harvesting whelk.

Read the report (in Norwegian only)


The whelk is a delicacy that is consumed in small amounts in Norway, but which is more widespread in other parts of Europe.


Cadmium is an element (in the transition heavy metal group) that is hazardous to humans and animals, which is the reason EU has maximum limits for this undesirable element.

Read the article at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority`s webpage (in Norwegian only)

Contact person:
Kåre Julshamn, Head of Research, Surveillance Research Programme, NIFES
Telephone: (+47) 99 48 77 01


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