Abstract An accurate and sensitive method for determination of 18 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (16 PAHs considered by USEPA as priority pollutants, dibenzo[a,l]pyrene and benzo[j]fluoranthene) in fish samples was validated. Analysis was performed by microwave-assisted extraction and liquid chromatography with photodiode array and fluorescence detection. Response surface methodology was used to find the optimal extraction parameters. Validation of the overall methodology was performed by spiking assays at four levels and using SRM 2977. Quantification limits ranging from 0.15–27.16ng/g wet weight were obtained. The established method was applied in edible tissues of three commonly consumed and commercially valuable fish species (sardine, chub mackerel and horse mackerel) originated from Atlantic Ocean. Variable levels of naphthalene (1.03–2.95ng/g wet weight), fluorene (0.34–1.09ng/g wet weight) and phenanthrene (0.34–3.54ng/g wet weight) were detected in the analysed samples. None of the samples contained detectable amounts of benzo[a]pyrene, the marker used for evaluating the occurrence and carcinogenic effects of PAHs in food.