Press Release

February 24, 2005

2005 SPORTS FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORY ANNOUNCED

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Public Health today announced its 2005 consumption advisories for sport fish caught in Illinois waters, which, for the first time, includes recommendations for fish caught in Little Grassy Lake and Marquette Park Lagoon.

Other changes this year include a change in the size of one species of Lake Michigan fish and new advisories for Lake Bracken and Kinkaid Lake.

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help anglers and their families decide where to fish, the types of fish to eat, and how to prepare fish for cooking to reduce possible contaminants,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Fish can be an important part of a balanced diet and is a good source of high quality protein and other nutrients and is low in fat.”

While there is no known immediate health threat from eating contaminated fish from any body of water in Illinois, there are concerns about the effects of long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides and chemicals, such as chlordane, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), and methylmercury, found in fish listed on the advisories. Methylmercury has been found to cause reproductive damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

The advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive populations, including women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15 years of age. They may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and men older than 15.

Changes to this year’s advisories include:

  • Largemouth bass from Little Grassy Lake in Williamson County should be limited to one meal per month by sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury.
  • White and black crappie from Little Grassy Lake in Williamson County should be limited to one meal per week by sensitive populations because of elevated levels of methylmercury.
  • Largemouth bass from Marquette Park Lagoon in Cook County should be limited to one meal per month by sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury.
  • Largemouth bass larger than 17 inches from Lake Bracken in Knox County should be limited to one meal per month by sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury. A fish advisory for PCBs already exists for largemouth bass, channel catfish and carp.
  • Walleye from Kinkaid Lake in Jackson County should be limited to one meal per month by sensitive populations and one meal per week for all others because of elevated levels of methylmercury. This lake already had a special mercury advisory for all sizes of white crappie and largemouth bass.
  • Due to decreasing levels of PCB contamination in Lake MichiganChinook salmon, the length of fish separating the advisory for one meal per month vs. six meals per year has been increased from 30 inches to 32 inches.

The remainder of this year’s consumption advisories are unchanged from last year’s, including the statewide advisory for methylmercury. The statewide mercury advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predator fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate higher amounts of methylmercury. Predator fish include all species of black bass, (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted), striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, flathead catfish, muskellunge, northern pike, saugeye, sauger, and walleye.

Women beyond childbearing age and males older than 15 years of age can eat as many meals of predator fish as they please with the exception of fish caught from the 13 bodies of water that are on the special mercury advisory and have more restrictive meal advice because of high levels of methylmercury. These include Arrowhead Lake, Campus Lake at Southern Illinois University, Cedar Lake, Devil's Kitchen Lake, Kinkaid Lake, Lake Bracken, Lake in the Hills, Little Grassy Lake, Marquette Park Lagoon, Midlothian Reservoir, Monee Reservoir, Ohio River, and Rock River (from Rockford to Milan Steel Dam).

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and it can be released into the air through industrial pollution. When it falls into surface water, bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into methylmercury, which is then taken up by fish as they feed on aquatic organisms.

For fish that may contain PCBs and chlordane, the advisory provides eating advice in five categories – unlimited consumption, no more than one meal per week, no more than one meal per month, no more than six meals per year and do not eat.

Anglers who vary the type and source of sport fish consumed – opting for the younger, smaller fish, and consuming leaner species such as walleye and panfish over fatty species such as carp and catfish – and who prepare and cook fish in ways that reduce the amount of contaminants can limit their exposure to harmful substances that may be found in fish.

There are several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish:

  • Before cooking, remove the skin from the filet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas.
  • Broil, bake or grill in a way that allows fat to drip away.
  • Discard fat drippings or broth from broiled or poached fish. Do not use in other dishes.

These precautions will not reduce the amount of methylmercury in fish. Mercury is found throughout a fish's muscle tissue (the edible part of the fish) rather than in the fat and skin. Therefore, the only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish eaten.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from about 40 bodies of water per year for contamination from 13 banned pesticides and industrial chemicals. The program is a joint effort of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Public Health.

The fish are collected by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and tested by IEPA. The Illinois Department of Public Health bases its consumption advisories on the IEPA test results. This year's advisories can be viewed on IDPH's Web www.idph.state.il.us and are included in the Illinois 2005 Fishing Information Guide, which is available from IDNR and from businesses that sell state fishing licenses.




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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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