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National Listing of Fish Advisories Released for 2004

Release Date: 09/15/2005
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Contact: Eryn Witcher, 202-564-4355 / witcher.eryn@epa.gov

(9/15/05) States, tribes and territories issued 3,221 fish advisories in 2004, according to data just released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The advisories alert residents to the potential health risks of eating contaminated fish caught locally in lakes, rivers and coastal waters. They do not pertain to commercial fishing.

The latest number is an increase from the 2003 reporting period, when 3,089 advisories were issued. The increase represents more monitoring activity by states. All 50 states have fish-advisory programs, although two -- Wyoming and Alaska -- issued no advisories.

While the 2004 National Listing of Fish Advisories database reflects an increase in advisories, the database also shows that the number of safe-eating guidelines issued by states continues to rise rapidly as states expand their monitoring activities. Safe-eating guidelines inform the public that fish from specific bodies of water or species of fish are safe to eat.

Each state sets its own criteria and decides which bodies of water to monitor. Some measurements involved coastal waters, rivers or lakes or a combination of the three. Additionally, states do not always monitor the same bodies of water from year to year. Fish advisories are voluntary state recommendations and are not governed by federal regulations.

"We are working in collaboration with our state partners to help ensure more waters are being tested and that the public receives accurate information about the fish they catch," said Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. "More monitoring triggers more advisories and actions to reduce risk and improve public health."

Frequently, when a fish advisory is issued it is because of pollutants that have lingered in the environment for long periods, sometimes decades, even though they are no longer used or their use has been significantly curtailed. These pollutants include PCB's, chlordane, DDT, mercury and dioxin.
EPA has made considerable progress toward reducing the occurrence of these contaminants in the environment: US human-caused emissions of mercury to the air have declined more than 45 percent since 1990, and EPA this year issued first-ever regulations to control mercury emissions from the power sector by 70 percent, the Clean Air Mercury Rule. Production of PCBs for use ceased in 1977; chlordane was banned in 1988; DDT was banned in 1972; and known and quantifiable industrial emissions of dioxin in the United States are estimated to have been reduced by approximately 90 percent from 1987 levels.

The consumption advisories vary but may include recommendations to limit or avoid eating certain fish species caught from specific bodies of water. Advisories may be issued for the general population or for such groups as pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children.

You can find the 2004 National Listing of Fish Advisories at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advisories/ Information about advisories in various states is at: http://epa.gov/waterscience/fish/states.htm Additional reference materials are available at: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/promo.html