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States Increase Protection of Public Health by Issuing More Fish Consumption Advisories -- EPA Releases Annual National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories; ‘Safe Eating Guidelines’ Increase 93 Percent

Release Date: 06/04/2003
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Contact: John Millett, 202-564-7842 /

(06/04/03) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III today released the annual National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories, which is designed to protect susceptible populations such as young children and women of child-bearing age. The report highlights a 93 percent increase in state safe eating guidelines, which are issued to inform the public that fish caught from specific waterbodies have been tested and are safe to eat.

“States are warning the public about chemical contaminants in fish tissues and informing the public about which fish and which waterbodies are safe. This promotes the enjoyment of recreational fishing,” said Mehan. “I want to especially congratulate Alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas for the outstanding job they are doing in identifying areas where the fish is safe to eat.”

The safe eating guidelines began in 1993, and only 20 guidelines were issued. The number increased slowly until 2002, when 164 new safe eating guidelines were issued. Currently 3,084 miles of rivers and 4,342,920 lake acres nationally have safe eating guidelines for at least one fish species in the continental U.S.

“Our expectation is that these guidelines will grow as additional states identify safe fishing waters,” said Mehan. “States are doing a better job of monitoring and have flexibility in the different types of advisories they issue.”

For example, some advisories recommend no or limited consumption of some species caught during recreational fishing, while others may recommend certain preparation and cooking methods to reduce risks. An advisory may be targeted to the population at large, to specific groups such as pregnant women and/or children; it may be limited to certain sizes or species of fish, or it may apply to fish caught in a particular section of a waterway or to all waterways.

Although there are advisories for a total of 39 chemical contaminants, most advisories involve five primary contaminant: mercury, PCBs, dioxins, DDT, and chlordane.

Almost 75 percent of the advisories have been issued at least in part because of mercury contamination. The 2,800 advisories issued in 2002 represent approximately 33 percent of the nation’s total lake acreage and over 15 percent of the nation’s total river miles. Approximately 95,000 lakes and 544,000 river miles are under advisory as well as all the Great Lakes and their connecting waters. There are also various advisories in many other nationally important waterways, including Lake Champlain, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and 20 estuaries. In addition, 28 states have statewide advisories including three new statewide advisories issued in 2002: Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island each added statewide mercury advice for lakes and rivers. In addition, a Native American group, the Micmac Tribe of Maine, also issued statewide mercury advisories to its members.

The National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Advisories and additional information on fish consumption advisories are available at: or by contacting your local department of health.