Fish Contamination Awareness: 4 Health Safety Tips

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Fish Contamination Awareness: 4 Health Safety Tips

When properly prepared, a fish fillet is delicious and good for you. However, as with almost any other food, there are also some health risks. For example, recalls and alerts for possible bacteria like salmonella and E. coli contamination in meat and even fruits and vegetables are too common. We don’t like to think about fish contamination, but there are some steps we can take to minimize health risks.

First, read your government fishing regulations for public health advice on eating fish. While this is not the full resource on this matter, this is a great place to get your education. For example, mercury contamination in fish is a problem in both salt water and fresh water.

According to the Fish Consumption Recommendation in the Pennsylvania Fisheries Summary, mercury is an “inevitable chemical contaminant,” but it is usually low. Exposure to some contaminants like PCBs can be reduced if the fish is cleaned to remove areas of skin and fat. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help with mercury in fish.

So what can we do

When you renew your fishing license, read the fishing regulations and learn what you can know about fish contamination so you can make an informed decision for you and your family. It looks like mercury contamination can occur in fish in many species. I still eat fish, but like any other food, moderation is important.

  1. Follow the recommended guidelines in each notice. In the event that additional contaminants are not yet discovered, Pennsylvania generally suggests “eating no more than half a pound of sport fish a week caught in the state’s waterways”. Your state may have different recommendations.
  2. Do your homework on every waterway. Some waters are safer than others. Warning notices should be found in government regulations or near areas with public access such as ramps.
  3. Let go of the old fish. The mercury levels in fish (and humans) slowly increase over time. Eating younger fish, which of course still comply with harvest regulations, can help reduce exposure.
  4. Are you in a risk group? Children, pregnant women, and women who may still have a family are most susceptible to long-term exposure and an increased likelihood of harm.

When you renew your fishing license, read the fishing regulations and learn what you can know about fish contamination so you can make an informed decision for you and your family. It looks like mercury contamination can occur in fish in many species. I still eat fish, but like any other food, moderation is important.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida but raised on the banks of farm ponds in Oklahoma, he now hunts pike, small bass and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After graduating with a degree in zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, in the US state of Iowa and the US state of Michigan.