Healthy eating guidelines cover American shad, Chinook (King) salmon, steelhead trout, striped bass and white sturgeon
February 15, 2012
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SACRAMENTO – The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) today released a health advisory and safe eating guidelines for some of California’s most popular sport fish species.
The new guidelines include recommendations for safe consumption to minimize health risks from contaminants – particularly mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) -- in five species of fish that are born in fresh water, spend much of their lives in the ocean, and return to fresh water to spawn. These species – American shad, Chinook (King) salmon, steelhead trout, striped bass, and white sturgeon – are popular with anglers and eaten by many Californians.
The guidelines recommend that children and women of childbearing age should avoid eating any striped bass and white sturgeon. OEHHA’s guidelines are more restrictive for children ages 1 to 17 and women ages 18 to 45 than for adult men and older women because children and developing fetuses are more vulnerable to health effects from contaminants in fish.
“This new advisory and guidelines balance the health benefits of eating wild-caught fish against the health risks from exposure to contaminants in them,” said OEHHA’s Acting Director, Dr. George Alexeeff. “Fish that live part of their lives in salt water and part of their lives in fresh water presented a need for special guidelines that cover all of the water bodies where they are caught.”
OEHHA scientists found that three of the species – steelhead trout, American shad, and Chinook (King) salmon – known to contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart and brain health, had low levels of chemical contaminants. They can be safely consumed more often than striped bass and white sturgeon, which have higher levels of contaminants.
The new advisory is based on levels of mercury and/or PCBs in the fish species. Nearly all fish have some mercury in their bodies, in the form of methylmercury, a known health hazard. Mercury can affect brain development in young babies, and PCBs may cause cancer.
The advisory covers the five fish species regardless of whether they are caught in the ocean, bays, the Delta, rivers or streams. However, it does not apply to “landlocked” fish that never leave lakes or reservoirs.
Specific recommendations for the five fish species include the following:
Children ages 1 to 17 and women ages 18 to 45 can safely eat two to three servings per week of Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, or shad but should not eat any striped bass or white sturgeon.
Men age 18 or older and women over 45 may safely eat up to seven servings per week of shad, salmon, or steelhead trout or up to two servings per week of striped bass or one serving per week of white sturgeon.
When catching wild fish from California’s rivers, streams, and estuaries, you may wish to keep these tips in mind:
• The recommended serving for fish is about the size and thickness of your hand.
• It is healthiest to eat only the skinless filet portion of the fish.
• Follow state and local fishing restrictions to protect fish populations.
OEHHA is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency. A fact sheet and the Fish Advisory and Safe Eating Guidelines – as well as advisories and safe eating guidelines for other species of fish and other bodies of water – may be viewed at www.oehha.ca.gov/fish.