DOH Releases Hudson River Angler Report
Albany, March 19, 1999 – The State Health Department today released a draft report on a survey of anglers fishing the Hudson River from Hudson Falls to the Tappan Zee Bridge at Tarrytown during the summer of 1996.
The report, funded by the federal Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry (ATSDR), follows up on a similar 1991 survey conducted by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization. The same questionnaire was used in both studies to evaluate angler awareness and understanding of the State's health advisories for Hudson River sportfish.
Comparisons between the 1991 Clearwater survey and the 1996 report found that awareness of the advisories had increased in areas north of Catskill. For example, there was an increase twofold for anglers fishing the Upper Hudson River (Hudson Falls to the Troy Dam) where the advisory is eat NONE for all species.
"Educating the public about the dangers of eating PCB–contaminated fish is an important component of our environmental health program" said Executive Deputy Commissioner Dennis P. Whalen. "This report will guide our efforts to reach those people who may be unaware of the department's health advisories for sportsfish and game."
In the area between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge there was a slight decrease in advisory awareness, where the advisory is eat no more than one meal per month for some fish. Overall, the study found that most anglers had learned of the advisories through the fishing regulations guide provided with fishing licenses. In addition, media coverage, word of mouth and signs posted in the Upper Hudson were also mentioned as factors.
DEC Commissioner John Cahill said, "As we improve access to the Hudson River and more people use this great natural resource, we also must ensure that the public fully understands the State's fish consumption advisories. Our staff is working with the State's public health experts to educate the public about the potential health threats contaminated fish present."
The report recommends the following public health actions be implemented:
- The State Health Department evaluate new data on contaminants in Hudson River fish and issue appropriate health advisories.
- The State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation will continue to distribute up–to–date health advisories to Hudson River anglers.
- The State Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation will increase education and outreach efforts in the Hudson River Estuary and the New York Harbor Area.
Last fall, the State was awarded $173,000 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further its education efforts informing the public about the State's advisories on eating PCB–contaminated fish from the Hudson River and to assess the need for an enhanced education campaign in nearby waters. This funding will help enhance outreach efforts and aid in the implementation of the recommendations made in the report released today.
294 Anglers Surveyed:
The 1996 and 1991 reports interviewed 294 and 166 shore anglers respectively, about their fishing habits and awareness of State health advisories on eating fish along 172 miles of the Hudson River. Because the survey was conducted during the summer and fall, anglers who fish only in the spring for species such as striped bass, blueback herring and shad were not surveyed.
Other Survey Findings:
More than 90% of anglers surveyed in both 1991 and 1996 said they were fishing primarily for recreation, with about 6% of the anglers fishing for food. Between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge about 14% of the anglers in both surveys responded that they were fishing primarily for food and almost half of the anglers fishing in this area included food as a reason for fishing. In both surveys, at least one third of the anglers kept some of the fish they caught and one third ate the fish they caught and shared their catch with others, including women of childbearing age and children under age 16.
DOH advises women of childbearing age, children under age 16 and infants to eat NO fish from the Hudson. However, the advisories note that eating a few meals of shad would not pose an unacceptable health risk for women of childbearing age and children. In the 1996 survey, fish caught and kept by anglers, ranked by total weight of each species kept, were white perch, white catfish, striped bass, and carp. The fish kept by anglers were among the species with the highest PCB concentrations.
Health Department Advisories and Awareness Efforts:
The State Health Department issues health advisories for Hudson River sportsfish that may contain chemicals at levels that could be harmful to the public's health. The advisories inform anglers of possible health risks and how to minimize their exposure to contaminants.
The State Health Department is working with community groups along the river to identify at–risk groups and the most effective methods for raising public awareness. Outreach efforts, including issuing public service announcements and posting signs along the Hudson River are underway.
DOH Website – Advisory Information:
A copy of the health advisory can be obtained by calling the State Health Department's environmental health information line at 1–800–458–1158 or via the department's Website.