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home : outdoors : dnr notes   April 29, 2016

8/16/2012 11:32:00 AM
DNR posts annual fish consumption advisories: OK to eat, with some limits
NT Staff

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Public Health this summer announced the 2012 consumption advisories for sport fish caught in Illinois waters.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from approximately 40 bodies of water each year for contamination from 14 banned pesticides, industrial chemicals and methylmercury.

The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of agriculture, natural resources and public health.

The fish are collected by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and tested by IEPA. IDPH issues an annual consumption advisory based on the IEPA test results. The advisory also can be found on the IDPH website at:

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help people decide the types of fish to eat, how often and how to prepare the fish to reduce possible contaminants,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Acting Director Dr. Arthur F. Kohrman. “Fish are a good source of high-quality protein and other nutrients and are low in fat. However, contaminants may make some fish unsafe to eat except in limited quantities, particularly for women of childbearing age and young children.”

Longstanding advisories in reference to consumption of carp and channel catfish from the Illinois River remain in effect, due to polychlorinated biphenyl contamination, with advisories in general against eating more than one meal per week of small catfish under 12 inches, against eating more than one meal per month of catfish at 12-16 inches, six per year for 16-18 inches and, for larger than 18 inches, “do not eat.” Similar advisories are in effect in reference to common carp.

While there is no known immediate health hazard from eating contaminated fish from any body of water inIllinois, there are concerns about the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides and chemicals, such as chlordane, polychlorinated biphenyls and methylmercury. Methylmercury has been found to cause reproductive damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

Among the bodies of water where alterations to methylmercury advisories were made were Evergreen Lake, north of Bloomington, adding crappie larger than 10 inches to the list of fish for “sensitive populations” to eat no more than one meal per week.

For the Kishwaukee Riverin Boone, McHenry and Winnebago counties the advisory was as follows: “methylmercury All Smallmouth Bass – one meal per month for sensitive populations; one meal per week for all others; and all rock bass, one meal per week for sensitive populations.”

The statewide mercury advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury. Predator fish include all species of Black Bass, (Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted) Striped Bass, White Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, Flathead Catfish, Muskellunge, Northern Pike, Saugeye, Sauger and Walleye.

Women beyond childbearing age and males older than 15 years of age may eat unlimited quantities of predator fish, with the exception of the fish caught from the 33 bodies of water that are on the special mercury advisory. These include Evergreen Lake, Heidecke Lake, Kishwaukee Riverand the Rock River south fromRockfordto Milan Steel Dam.

For fish that may contain PCBs and chlordane, the advisory provides consumption advice in five categories – unlimited consumption, no more than one meal per week, no more than one meal per month, no more than six meals per year and do not eat.

Anglers who vary the type and source of sport fish consumed – opting for younger, smaller fish, and consuming leaner species such as walleye and panfish over fatty species such as the common carp and catfish, and who prepare and cook fish in ways that reduce the amount of contaminants – can limit their exposure to harmful substances that may be found in fish.

Several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish include:

* Remove the skin from the fillet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas before cooking.

* Broil, bake or grill in a way that allows fat to drip away.

* Discard fat drippings or broth from broiled or poached fish. Do not use in other dishes.

These precautions will not reduce the amount of methylmercury in fish. Mercury is found throughout a fish’s muscle tissue (the edible part of the fish) rather than in the fat and skin. Therefore, the only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount  of contaminated fish eaten.

For more information, call (217) 558-1548.

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