New concerns about the global presence and human health significance of mercury have arisen as a result of recent epidemiological data demonstrating subtle neurological effects from consumption of mercury-contaminated fish. In the Great Lakes Basin, the complexity of the diverse sources, pools, and sinks of mercury and of the pathways of distribution, fate, and biotransformation requires an ecosystem approach to the assessment of exposures of Great Lakes' human populations. Further epidemiological research is needed to verify preliminary indications of harmful effects in people living near the Great Lakes. Great Lakes fish are valuable resources for subsistence nutrition, recreation, and commerce, but the benefits of fish consumption must be balanced by concern for the hazards from the contaminants that they may contain. The efficacy of fish consumption advisories in reducing exposures should continue to be evaluated while planning continues for remedial actions on contaminated sediments from historic industrial activities and for regulatory action to control sources.