Unfortunately, many of this nation’s lakes and rivers still suffer from past pollution and have “fish consumption advisories” attached to them. Most state fishing regulations either list the water bodies, or provide a website or hotline to call for additional information.
Fish consumption advisories do not prohibit people from eating fish. They are warning about potential contaminants present and potential health effects for people who eat those fish regularly. Most advisories identify specific locations of contamination, the species of fish involved, and the maximum number of meals allowed for each species of fish included in the advisory.
Generally, advisories recommend that anglers:
- Eat smaller, younger fish (provided it is legal to do so). Younger fish contain less harmful levels of contaminants than bigger fish;
- Skin and remove the fat from the belly, lateral line and top of the fish;
- Bake, broil, or grill fish so that the fats drain away from the flesh;
- Discard any fats that cook out of the fish, and avoid using fish drippings or broth to flavor a meal; and
- Avoid deep-fried fish because frying seals contaminants into the fatty tissue.
Because of their life histories and relatively short life spans, pan fish are not generally affected by the contaminants of concern in many fish advisories.