High intake of fish has been associated with reduced risk of CHD. The high content of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in fish has been suggested to be a protective factor. In addition, fish is the entirely dominating source of methylmercury for the general population, and the concentration of Hg in erythrocytes (Ery-Hg) is often used as an index of fish consumption. Our aim was to study the relationships between a first-ever myocardial infarction, Ery-Hg, activity of gluthathione peroxidase in erythrocytes (Ery-GSH-Px) and plasma concentration of the n-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (P-PUFA). In a population-based prospective nested case–control study within Northern Sweden seventy-eight cases of a first-ever myocardial infarction were compared with 156 controls with respect to Ery-Hg, P-PUFA and Ery-GSH-Px. Both Ery-Hg and P-PUFA, but not Ery-GSH-Px, were significantly (P<0·0001) higher in subjects reporting high fish intake (at least one meal per week) than in those with lower intake. This finding suggests that Ery-Hg and P-PUFA reflect previous long-term fish intake. Low risk of myocardial infarction was associated with high Ery-Hg or high P-PUFA. In a multivariate model the risk of myocardial infarction was further reduced in subjects with both high Ery-Hg and high P-PUFA (odds ratio 0·16, 95 % CI 0·04, 0·65). In conclusion, there is a strong inverse association between the risk of a first myocardial infarction and the biomarkers of fish intake, Ery-Hg and P-PUFA, and this association is independent of traditional risk factors.