Fish Contamination Awareness: 4 health safety tips

Properly prepared, a fillet of fish is delicious and good for you. However, as with just about every other food, there are some health risks too.   For example, recalls and alerts for possible bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli contamination in meats and even fruits and vegetables are too common. Fish contamination is something we don’t like to think about but there are some things we can do to minimize health risks.

First, read your state fishing regulations regarding any public health advisories about eating fish. Although not the complete resource on the matter, this is a great place to start educating yourself. For example, mercury contamination in fish is a concern in both saltwater and freshwater.

According to the fish consumption advisory in the Pennsylvania Fishing Regulations Summary , mercury is an “unavoidable chemical contaminant” but usually found in a low level.  Exposure to some contaminants such as PCBs can be lessened if the fish is cleaned to remove skin and fatty areas. Unfortunately, this does not help in the case of mercury in fish.

So what can we do?

When you renew your fishing license, pick up fishing regulations and learn what you can about any fish  contamination so you can make an educated decision for you and your family. It looks like mercury contamination in fish can happen to many species.  I still eat fish but, as with every other food, moderation is important.
 

  1. Follow the recommended guidelines in any advisory. For example, in case there are additional contaminants not yet discovered, Pennsylvania broadly suggests eating “no more than one-half pound per week of sport fish caught in the state’s waterways.” Your state may have different recommendations.
  2. Do your homework on each waterway. Some waters are safer than others. Warnings should be found in state regulations or near public access areas such as ramps.
  3. Release the old fish. Mercury levels slowly increase in fish (and people) over time. Eating younger fish, still within the harvest regulations of course, may help lessen exposure.
  4. Are you in a ‘high-risk group?’ Children, pregnant women, and women who may still start a family are reported as being the most vulnerable to long exposure and thus an increased chance of damaging levels.

When you renew your fishing license, pick up fishing regulations and learn what you can about any fish  contamination so you can make an educated decision for you and your family. It looks like mercury contamination in fish can happen to many species. I still eat fish but, as with every other food, moderation is important.


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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.