Fish Tissue Monitoring & Advisories
The national fish advisories provide important information on fish consumption for pregnant women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children.
All of the states have primary responsibility for protecting their residents from the health risks of consuming contaminated noncommercially caught fish and wildlife. They do this by issuing consumption advisories informing the public that high concentrations of chemical contaminants (e.g., mercury and dioxins) have been found in local fish and wildlife.
Fish consumption advisories are listed for both the general population, including recreational and subsistence fishers,as well as for sensitive individuals (such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children). Advisories include recommendations to limit or avoid consumption of certain fish and wildlife species from specific water bodies or, in some cases, from specific water-body types (e.g., all lakes).
States typically issue five major types of advisories and bans to protect both the general population and specific subpopulations (usually pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children). When levels of chemical contamination pose a health risk to the general public, states may issue a no consumption advisory for the general population. When contaminant levels pose a health risk to sensitive subpopulations, states may issue a no consumption advisory for the sensitive subpopulation. In water bodies where chemical contamination is less severe, an advisory may be issued recommending that either the general population or a sensitive subpopulation restrict their consumption of species for which the advisory is issued. The fifth type of state-issued advisory is the commercial fishing ban, which prohibits the commercial harvest and sale of fish, shellfish, and/or wildlife species from a designated water body.
Fish consumption advisories in Region 8
As noted in the table, the States in Region 8 reported a total of 106 fish consumption advisories in 1997. A listing of 102 of these advisories can be accessed by downloading the 2003 Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories (LFWA) database available through the USEPA. This database includes all available information describing state-, tribal-, and federally issued fish consumption advisories in the United States for the 50 States, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, and the 12 Canadian provinces and territories. The LFWA database is available for downloading from the Internet through the EPA Office of Science and Technology.
Although advisories in the U.S. have been issued for a total of 46 chemical contaminants, most advisories issued have involved five primary contaminants. These contaminants are biologically accumulated in the tissues of aquatic organisms at concentrations many times higher than concentrations in the water. In addition, these contaminants persist in sediments for relatively long periods, where they can be accumulated by bottom-dwelling animals and passed up the food chain to fish.
Concentrations of these contaminants in the tissues of aquatic organisms may be increased at each successive level of the food chain. As a result, top predators in a food chain, such as trout, salmon, or walleye, may have concentrations of these chemicals in their fatty tissues that can be millions of times higher than the concentrations in the water. Mercury, PCBs, chlordane, dioxins, and DDT (and its degradation products, DDE and DDD) were responsible for 95% of all national fish consumption advisories in effect in 1997. In Region 8, mercury was responsible for 95% (101 of 106) of all fish consumption advisories.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition - US Food and Drug Administration
- EPA Office of Water Fish Advisory
- EPA Office of Water Fish Advisory Fact Sheet
- Fish Consumption Advice
- Fish Advisory Press Releases, Letters, Brochures, and Other Materials
More information on bioaccumulative contaminants can be accessed at EPA's Persistant Bioaccumulative Toxins web site.