GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every year, millions of people pull fish from the Great Lakes and its connecting rivers and even more buy them from stores, but many are missing the warnings about limiting how much fish you eat.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, approximately half of all people in Great Lakes states are unaware of the recommended limits submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Drug Administration.

The study, which was published last month in the journal “Science of the Total Environment”, found that an estimated 5 million people in the Great Lakes region exceed the recommended fish intake of two meals or 12 ounces per week. Women, minorities, younger people and those with lower education levels showed to be less aware of fish advisories and more prone to exceed the limits.

Henry Anderson, one of the study’s co-authors, told the Great Lakes Echo that the advisories aren’t enforceable, but are there for a reason.

“It’s a bit like speed limits — even though people are aware of them, it’s not always easy to get people to adhere to them,” Anderson told the Echo.

Fish is considered a healthy source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, but too much can cause health issues, depending on the species and where the fish are caught.

The EPA and FDA have issued a recommended limit on eating Lake Superior rainbow smelt because of elevated levels of PFAS. (Courtesy USFWS)

Brandon Reid, a toxicologist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the program manager of the Eat Safe Fish program, told the Great Lakes Echo those contaminants can build up in fish and be passed onto you.

“We base the guidelines on the level of chemical that’s measured in the part of the fish you eat. It all depends on how much you eat and how much chemical is in that fish,” Reid told the Echo.

The Eat Safe Fish program offers a county-by-county breakdown, along with statewide recommendations. It also tells you the chemical of concern and the suggested monthly portion limit for each fish.

The program is updated and released every spring. This year, 16 fish species have suggested limits statewide to avoid mercury poisoning, including bluegill, catfish and walleye.

In May, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a warning about eating rainbow smelt out of Lake Superior because of elevated levels of PFAS found in the fish. And because of the PCB mess caused by old paper plants, the DNR recommends not eating any fish out of the Kalamazoo River.