State Health Department Issues Annual Fish Advisories

ALBANY, May 18, 2007 - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today released changes in New York's health advisories as part of its annual guide for chemicals in sportfish and game.

The annual health advisories provide advice for sports anglers, hunters and the general public about how to reduce exposure to chemical contaminants in sportfish and game. Health advisories now apply to 135 New York State waters.

This year's sportfish guide includes new advice for Onondaga Lake (due to mercury); the Valatie Kill between Nassau Lake and Kinderhook Lake (due to PCBs); and part of the Mohawk River (also due to PCBs). DOH is also advising women of childbearing years and children under the age of 15 to avoid eating any fish from these waters. No additional waters have new advisories.

Women of childbearing years and children under the age of 15 should also avoid eating specific fish (northern pike, pickerel, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and larger yellow perch) from all waters in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountain regions because of mercury contamination.

A long-standing, general statewide advisory still applies to sportfish taken from any freshwaters in the state and some marine waters at the mouth of the Hudson River. The general advice is to eat no more than one meal (1/2 pound) of fish per week.

Mercury and PCBs, as well as other fish contaminants, may affect the nervous system of children born to mothers exposed to these chemicals. Some of these contaminants may also build up in women's bodies and some chemicals may be passed to newborns in their mother's milk. Because some contaminants may accumulate and remain in the body for a long time, women should follow the stricter consumption advice throughout their childbearing years.

This year, DOH reviewed State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sampling data collected from approximately 2,000 fish in more than 20 waters across the state. The advisories for bluefish and striped bass from Long Island Sound will be evaluated this summer, upon receipt of new data from DEC for these species on PCBs and mercury.

New health advisories for Onondaga Lake, the Valatie Kill between Nassau Lake and Kinderhook Lake and part of the Mohawk River:

  • Onondaga Lake (Onondaga County) - The advisory to EAT NO largemouth and smallmouth bass over 15 inches is based on elevated mercury levels. Previous advice to EAT NO walleye and EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of other fish species and smaller largemouth and smallmouth bass remains in effect.
  • Valatie Kill between Nassau Lake and Kinderhook Lake (Columbia and Rensselaer Counties) - The advisory to EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of American eel, bluegill and redbreasted sunfish is based on PCBs in these fish. In previous years, only limited fish PCB data were available for this part of the Valatie Kill near Nassau Lake.
  • Mohawk River between West Canada Creek and Fivemile Dam (Herkimer County) - The advisory to EAT NO MORE THAN ONE MEAL PER MONTH of carp caught in the Mohawk River between West Canada Creek and Fivemile Dam (downstream of Little Falls) is based on PCBs in these fish.

New York State has issued fish advisories to protect public health for nearly forty years and has one of the most comprehensive fish advisory programs in the nation. New York's waters include more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and marine waters.

The fish advisories are published in the Fishing Regulations Guide issued by DEC. The complete Health Advisories and additional information can be found at the DOH Web site at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/fish/fish.htm or by calling the Health Department's toll-free information line at 1-800-458-1158 extension 2-7815.