Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

FISH

CALIFORNIA
Sport Fish Consumption Advisories


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Important facts to know if you eat the fish you catch in California.

Public Health Advisories and Guidance on Sport Fish Consumption
Fish are nutritious and good for you to eat. But some fish you catch may take in toxic chemicals from the water they live in and the food they eat. Some of these chemicals build up in the fish - and in you - over time. Although the chemical levels are usually low, it’s a good idea to follow a few precautions in consuming fish, particularly if you eat fish often. The purpose of this brochure is to guide you to eat the fish you catch in ways that reduce your exposure to chemicals.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) provides specific consumption advice in this booklet for fish taken in areas where high levels of chemicals have been found in fish. However, because contamination levels are unknown for many locations, OEHHA also provides general advice on how to reduce your exposure to chemicals in noncommercial fish, referred to as sport fish, that you or your family catch.

These advisories are not intended to discourage you from eating fish entirely. Fish are nutritious and an excellent source of protein. The advisories should be followed to make your sport fish eating safer.

OEHHA can provide more information on the advisories and the health effects of chemical contaminants in the fish. OEHHA also has an illustrated brochure giving general advice. The brochure can be requested in several different languages. To stay current for updates and to request additional information, please check the OEHHA Web site at www.oehha.ca.gov or contact the Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Section (PETS) of OEHHA in Sacramento or Oakland at the address given on the back cover of this booklet.

General Advice
You can reduce your exposure to chemical contaminants in sport fish by following the recommendations below. Follow as many of them as you can to increase your health protection. This general advice is not meant to take the place of advisories for specific areas, which follow later in this booklet, but should be followed in addition to them. Sport fish in most water bodies in the state have not been evaluated for their safety for human consumption. This is why we strongly recommend following the general advice given below.

Fishing Practices
Chemical levels can vary from place to place. Your overall exposure to chemicals is likely to be lower if you fish at a variety of places rather than at one usual spot that might have high contamination levels.

Be aware that OEHHA may issue new advisories or revise existing ones. Consult the Department of Fish and Game regulations booklet or check with OEHHA on a yearly basis to see if there are any changes that could affect you.

Consumption Guidelines
Fish Species:
Some fish species have higher chemical levels than others in the same location. If possible, eat smaller amounts of several different types of fish rather than a large amount of one type that may be high in contaminants.

Fish Size:
Smaller fish of a species will usually have lower chemical levels than larger fish in the same location because some of the chemicals may become more concentrated in larger, older fish. It is advisable to eat smaller fish (of legal size) more often than larger fish.

Fish Preparation and Consumption:

  • Eat only the fillet portions. Do not eat the guts and liver because chemicals usually concentrate in those parts. Also, avoid frequent consumption of any reproductive parts such as eggs or roe.
  • Many chemicals are stored in the fat. To reduce the levels of these chemicals, skin the fish when possible and trim any visible fat.
  • Use a cooking method such as baking, broiling, grilling, or steaming that allows the juices to drain away from the fish. The juices will contain chemicals in the fat and should be thrown away. Preparing and cooking fish in this way can remove 30 to 50 percent of the chemicals stored in fat. If you make stews or chowders, use fillet parts.
  • Raw fish may be infested by parasites. Cook fish thoroughly to destroy the parasites. This also helps to reduce the level of many chemical contaminants.

How to prepare

Advice for Pregnant Women

Young children and fetuses are more sensitive to the toxic effects of methylmercury, the form of mercury of health concern in fish.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for commercial seafood safety. FDA has issued the following advice about the risks of mercury in fish to pregnant women and women of childbearing age who may become pregnant. The FDA advises these woman not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. The FDA also advises that it is prudent for nursing mothers and young children not to eat these fish as well.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has also issued national advice to protect against consuming mercury in fish. They recommend that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children eat no more than one meal per week on noncommercial freshwater fish caught by family or friends.

National advice for women and children on mercury in fish is available from the US Environmental Protection Agency at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fishadvice/advice.html

and the US Food and Drug administration at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/admehg.html

Adjusting Fish Meal Size for Body Weight
In the site-specific guidance that follows, OEHHA gives consumption advice in terms of meals for a given period such as a meal a week, and uses an eight-ounce meal size as the standard amount allowed for the "average" adult. The average adult weighs approximately 150 pounds (equivalent to 70 kg). Because you and your family members may weigh more or less than the average adult, you can use the chart below to adjust serving sizes to body weight.

How Big Is A Meal?

If You Weigh…

Your Meal Size Should Not Exceed…

Pounds or kilograms

Ounces* or grams

19

9

1

28

39

18

2

57

58

26

3

85

77

35

4

113

96

44

5

142

116

53

6

170

135

61

7

199

154

70

8

227

173

79

9

255

193

88

10

284

212

96

11

312

231

105

12

340

250

113

13

369

270

123

14

397

289

131

15

425

308

140

16

454

*sixteen ounces is equal to one pound

Site-Specific Consumption Recommendations
The following guidelines apply to the specific advisories that follow:

  1. Eating sport fish in amounts slightly greater than what is recommended should not present a health hazard if only done occasionally such as eating fish caught during an annual vacation.
  2. Nursing and pregnant women and young children may be more sensitive to the harmful effects of some of the chemicals and should be particularly careful about following the advisories. Because contaminants take a long time to leave the body after they accumulate, women who plan on becoming pregnant should begin following the more restrictive consumption advice, a year before becoming pregnant. In this way, the levels of chemicals stored in the body can go down.
  3. The limits that follow for each species and area assume that no other contaminated fish is being eaten. If you consume several different listed species from the same area, or the same species from several areas, your total consumption still should not exceed the recommended amount. One simple approach is to just use the lowest recommended amount as a guideline to consumption.
  4. Just because the area where you like to fish is not included in the specific advisory areas that follow, it does not necessarily mean that it is free from chemical contamination. Sport fish in most parts of the state have not yet been evaluated for their safety for human consumption. Follow the general advice given earlier to protect your health.

The specific advisories listed below are arranged generally from north to south.

Lake Pillsbury (Lake County)
Because of elevated levels of mercury, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant within a year, nursing mothers, and children under age six should not eat fish from Lake Pillsbury. Other adults and children age six and older may eat fish from Lake Pillsbury on an occasional, but not regular, basis.

Clear Lake (Lake County) and Lake Berryessa (Napa County)
Because of elevated mercury levels, adults should eat no more than the amounts indicated below per month. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under age six should not eat fish from these lakes. Children 6-15 years of age should eat no more than one-half the amounts indicated for adults.

Fish Species

Clear Lake

Lake Berryessa

largemouth bass
over 15"

1 lb.

1 lb.

largemouth bass
under 15"

2 lbs.

2 lbs.

smallmouth bass all
sizes

*

1 lb.

white catfish all
sizes

3 lbs.

2 lbs.

channel catfish over
24"

1 lb.

3 lbs.

Channel catfish
under 24"

3 lbs.

3 lbs.

rainbow trout all
sizes

*

10 lbs.

brown bullhead all
sizes

6 lbs.

*

Sacramento
blackfish all sizes

6 lbs.

*

crappie over 12"

1 lb.

*

crappie under 12"

3 lbs.

*

hitch all sizes

10 lbs.

*

*Species not present or not tested

San Francisco Bay and Delta Region

  • Because of elevated levels of mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals, the following interim advisory has been issued. A final advisory will be issued when the data have been completely evaluated.
  • Adults should eat no more than two meals per month of San Francisco Bay sport fish, including sturgeon and striped bass caught in the delta. (One meal for an adult is about eight ounces).
  • Adults should not eat any striped bass over 35 inches.
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under age six should not eat more than one meal of fish per month. In addition, they should not eat any striped bass over 27 inches or any shark over 24 inches.
  • This advisory does not apply to salmon, anchovies, herring, and smelt caught in the bay; other sport fish caught in the delta or ocean; or commercial fish.
  • Richmond Harbor Channel area: In addition to the above advice, no one should eat any croakers, surfperches, bullheads, gobies or shellfish taken within the Richmond Harbor Channel area because of high levels of chemicals detected there.

Lake Herman (Solano County)
Because of elevated mercury levels, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under age six should not eat fish from Lake Herman. Adults should eat no more than one pound per month of largemouth bass, and children 6-15 years of age should eat no more than eight ounces per month of largemouth bass.

Grassland Area (Merced County)
Because of elevated selenium levels, no one should eat more than four ounces of fish from the Grassland area, in any two-week period. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children age 15 and under should not any eat fish from this area.

Guadalupe Reservoir, Calero Reservoir, Almaden Reservoir, Guadalupe River, Guadalupe Creek, Alamitos Creek, and the associated percolation ponds along the river and creeks (Santa Clara County)
Because of elevated mercury levels in fish, no one should consume any fish taken from these locations.

Lake Nacimiento (San Luis Obispo County)
Because of elevated mercury levels, no one should eat more than four meals per month of largemouth bass from Lake Nacimiento. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children under age six should not eat largemouth bass from the area.

Harbor Park Lake (Los Angeles County)
Because of elevated chlordane and DDT levels, no one should eat goldfish or carp from Harbor Park Lake.

Salton Sea (Imperial and Riverside Counties)
Because of elevated selenium levels, no one should eat more than four ounces of croaker, orangemouth corvina, sargo, or tilapia taken from the Salton Sea in any two-week period. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children age 15 and under should not eat fish from this area. (An additional warning for the New River has been published and posted by the Imperial County Health Department for people to avoid physical contact with the waters of the New River and to avoid eating any fish of any variety taken from the river.)

Southern California Locations between Point Dume and Dana Point
Twenty-four locations in this area of southern California have been tested. No consumption advisories based on chemicals are issued for the following locations: Santa Monica Pier, Venice Pier, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey, Redondo Beach, Emma/Eva oil platforms, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Fourteen Mile Bank, Catalina (Twin Harbor), and Dana Point.

Because of elevated DDT and PCB, however, advisories have been issued for the locations shown in the table that follows. (One meal is about six ounces.)

Site Fish Species Recommendation*
Point Dume/ Malibu off shore White croaker Do not consume
Malibu Pier Queenfish One meal a month
Short Bank White croaker One meal every two weeks
Redondo Pier Corbina One meal every two weeks
Point Vicente Palos Verdes-Northwest White croaker Do not consume
White's Point White croaker Do not consume
  Sculpin One meal every two weeks+
  Rockfishes One meal every two weeks+
  Kelp bass One meal every two weeks+
Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors (especially Cabrillo Pier) White croaker Do not consume
  Queenfish One meal every two weeks+
  Black croaker One meal every two weeks+
  Surfperches One meal every two weeks+
Los Angeles/Long Beach Breakwater
(ocean side)
White croaker One meal a month+
  Queenfish One meal a month+
  Surfperches One meal a month+
  Black Croaker One meal a month+
Belmont Pier
Pier J
Surfperches One meal every two weeks
Horseshoe Kelp Sculpin One meal a month+
  White croaker One meal a month+
Newport Pier Corbina One meal every two weeks

*A meal for a 150-pound adult is about six ounces. Figure about one ounce of consumption for each 20 pounds of body weight.

+ Consumption recommendation is for all listed species combined at the particular site.

Advisories are current as of June 2001.

California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)

Pesticide and Environmental Toxicology Section
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
P.O. Box 4010
Sacramento, California 95812-4010
(916) 327-7319
FAX (916) 327-1097

or

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
1515 Clay St., 16th Floor
Oakland, CA, 94612
(510) 622-3170
(510) 622-3218 FAX

Photo: Kimberly McKee-Lewis, associate wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, caught a barracuda on a sport fish tagging effort in San Diego Bay.

 
 
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