2014 Ohio Sport Fish Health and Consumption Advisory

Advice for anyone who eats fish caught in Ohio. 


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The Ohio Department of Health advises everyone limit consumption of sport fish caught from all waterbodies in Ohio to one meal per week, unless there is a more or less restrictive advisory.

FISH IS GOOD FOR YOU!
Eat fish low in contaminants.

Fish are generally low in fat and high in protein. Fish contain a number of vitamins and minerals, and are the primary food source for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids are important during fetal brain and eye development and may help to prevent heart disease in adults.

In general, use the following table to guide your fish consumption choices:

   
2 meals per week
Yellow perch, sunfish (e.g., bluegill, green, longear, redear)*
 1 meal per week
All fish not specified in this table
 1 meal per month
Flathead catfish 23" and over, northern pike 23" and over, steelhead trout from Lake Erie and its tributaries
 Do not eat
See the Do Not Eat Tab below.
   

*Consumption of these species should be limited to one meal per week from: Ashtabula River, Cuyahoga River, Mahoning River, Nesmith Lake, Ohio Canal, Ohio River, and West Branch Reservoir; and as otherwise indicated in the "Limit Your Meals From These Waters" tab.

General and Statewide Advisories

The Ohio Department of Health advises that everyone limit consumption of sport fish caught from all water bodies in Ohio to one meal per week, unless there is a more or less restrictive advisory.

The one meal per week advisory protects sensitive populations, including women of child bearing age and children under age 15. 

Listings of water bodies sampled for fish contaminants are available here.

Statewide/Nationwide Mercury Advisory for Sensitive Populations

The statewide mercury advisory is primarily for women of child-bearing age and children age 15 and under. They are advised to eat no more than one meal per week of fish (any species) from any Ohio water body unless there is a more or less restrictive advisory. Although the one meal per week advice applies mainly to these sensitive populations, the general advisory recommends that everyone follow that advice.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly issued a national mercury-related advisory for store-bought fish and fish served in restaurants. This advice is for women of child-bearing age and young children. This advice states:

  1. Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.

  2. Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

    • Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

    • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to six ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.

  3. Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers and coastal areas. If no advice is available, you may eat up to six ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don't consume any other fish during that week.

Do Not Eat Fish From These Waters

Do not eat snapping turtle meat from these locations
In addition to the advisories below, Ohio EPA advises not eating snapping turtle meat from some locations. Follow the link to see the locations in this advisory.

These fish have high levels of contaminants, and should not be eaten.

Body of Water

Area Under Advisory

Species

Contaminant

Dicks Creek

Cincinnati-Dayton Road, Middletown to the Great Miami River
(Butler County)

All Species

PCBs

Great Miami River

Lowhead Dam at Monument Avenue (Dayton) to mouth (Ohio River)
(Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery, Warren Counties)

All Suckers

PCBs

Lake Nesmith

All Waters
(Summit County)

Channel Catfish,
Common Carp

PCBs

Little Scioto River

State Route 739, near Marion to Holland Road, near Marion
(Marion County)

All Species

PAHs

Mahoning River

Rockhill Avenue NE (Alliance) to Pennsylvania State Line
(Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Trumbull Counties)

Channel Catfish 21" and over,
Smallmouth Bass 15" and over

PCBs

Ohio River

Pennsylvania Border (East Liverpool) to Belleville Lock
(Athens, Belmont, Columbiana, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Washington Counties)

Channel Catfish 18" and over

PCBs

Ottawa River (Toledo)

Auburn Avenue to mouth (Lake Erie)
(Lucas County)

All Species

PCBs

Secor Road at University of Toledo to Auburn Avenue

Common Carp

Portage Canal (a.k.a. Ohio Canal)

All Waters
(Summit County)

Channel Catfish,
Common Carp

PCBs

Summit Lake

All Waters
(Summit County)

Channel Catfish,
Common Carp

PCBs

Tuscarawas River

State Route 416 (New Philadelphia) to mouth (Muskingum River)
(Coshocton, Tuswcarawas Counties)

Flathead Catfish 26" and over

PCBs

PAHs = Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
PCBs = Polychlorinated Biphenyls




Do Not Wade or Swim in These Waters

The waters and/or sediments in these areas have high levels of contaminants. It is recommended that a person not swim or wade in these water body sections.

Body of Water

Area Under Advisory

Contaminant

Dicks Creek

River mile 4.1 (1 mile downstream from North Branch Dicks Creek), Middletown to the Great Miami River (Butler County)

PCBs

Little Scioto River

State Route 739, near Marion to Holland Road, near Marion
(Marion County)

PAHs

Mahoning River

NW Bridge Road (Warren) to Pennsylvania State Line
(Mahoning, Trumbull Counties)

PAHs, PCBs

Ottawa River, Toledo

Eastern Interstate 475 bridge to Lake Erie
(Lucas County)

PCBs
PAHs = Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
PCBs = Polychlorinated Biphenyls 
 


 

Trimming and Cooking Fish

illustration of which parts of fish to trimFillet the fish. 

Remove all skin from fillets or steaks. This allows fat to drain away from the fish during cooking.

Trim off the fatty areas that are shown in black on the drawing. These include the fatty areas found along the belly, back, and both sides of the fillet.

Cook so that the fat drips away. Broil, bake, or grill on a rack, or poach and discard the liquid.

If you deep-fry your catch, discard the oil. Pan frying removes few, if any, contaminants.

If you prepare soups or chowders from fish, be aware that this cooking method holds in juices that contain fat (and contaminants) from the fish. If you are preparing a soup or chowder, you can reduce the amount of contaminants by baking, broiling, grilling or poaching your fish first, then adding the cooked fish to the soup or chowder.

While most Ohio sport fish are safe to eat, low levels of chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury have been found in some fish from certain waters. To ensure the continued good health of Ohioans, the Ohio Department of Health offers an advisory for how often these fish can be safely eaten. An advisory is advice and should not be viewed as law or regulation.  It is intended to help anglers and their families make educated choices about: where you fish, what types of fish you eat, how to determine the amount and frequency of fish you consume, and how you prepare fish for cooking.

By following these advisories, you can get the health benefits of eating fish and reduce unwanted contaminants.

For an adult, the serving size is 8 ounces uncooked or 6 ounces cooked. For children under age six, the serving size is 3 ounces uncooked or 2 ounces cooked.

This advisory covers only sport fish caught and consumed by Ohio anglers. Safety regulations and advisories for fish in the market place are the responsibility of the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most kinds of fish on the market are safe and numerous health organizations encourage consumption of up to 12 ounces of fish per week. Based on national advisory information issued by FDA, the following species of fish could pose health problems for some individuals. Avoid these kinds of fish if you are concerned about your exposure to chemical contaminants:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King Mackerel
  • Tilefish
U.S. EPA and FDA have issued an advisory for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers and young children.  U.S. EPA and FDA recommend that women of childbearing age and children limit their intake of all fish, including store bought fish and tuna, to two to three meals per week (12 ounces of fish per week for an adult woman). For more information about FDA's fish consumption advice, see www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm351781.htm

These are usually made from fish low in contaminants.

Ohio's fish samples are analyzed for several contaminants, most importantly mercury and PCBs, as those two contaminants are found most often in fish at levels of concern. Several metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead and selenium are looked for in addition to mercury. Samples are also analyzed for pesticides, including aldrin, dieldrin, lindane, DDT and its breakdown products, endrin, endosulfan, heptachlor, methoxychlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and nonachlor. Except in a few special cases on the advisory list, mercury and PCBs are responsible for advisories on Ohio sport fish.

Yes. Because PCBs and mercury affect different body processes, it is considered safe to eat a fish that has an advisory due to mercury and another fish that has an advisory due to PCBs, even if they have the same meal frequency suggested.  However, if you eat any fish that has an advisory due to a particular contaminant, you should not eat another fish within the advised length of time that is listed for that contaminant, regardless of the species or location. For example, if you eat a fish that has a one per month recommended frequency for mercury, you should not eat another sport caught fish that is listed as one per month for mercury, even if the other fish is a different species or caught at a different place.

One week's consumption of fish does not change the level of contaminants in the body much at all.  If you eat a lot of fish one week, you can cut back for the next week or two. Just make sure you average the recommended amount per week.

Fish taken from rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs throughout Ohio often have small amounts of chemical contaminants. Limiting the number of sport fish meals eaten ensures that the contaminants do not build up in your body to levels that may be harmful. Data collected from lakes and rivers in Ohio show that a statewide advisory of one meal per week of most sport-caught fish is appropriate.

All lakes and streams that have fish with higher levels of contaminants are listed in the Limit Your Meals table. If you don't see the lake or stream where you fish, then you may safely consume the fish you catch as often as once a week. Complete lists of lakes and streams that have been sampled for contaminated fish are available on the web and in PDF documents:

Ohio EPA evaluates 36 fish tissue contaminants to decide whether or not to issue a fish consumption advisory.  You cannot see, smell or taste these fish contaminants at levels that can affect your health.  Therefore, a lake can look dirty, yet the fish in it can be uncontaminated.  Conversely, a lake can look clean and the fish can be contaminated and require an advisory.  Some things that cause a lake to seem dirty, such as sediment that makes the water look muddy, or bacteria and algae (microscopic plants) that can produce an odor, do not contaminate fish tissue.  Therefore, you cannot tell if there should be a fish advisory by whether the lake looks or smells dirty. 

Fish can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.  Fish are generally low in fat and high in protein. Fish contain a number of vitamins and minerals, and are the primary food source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important during fetal brain and eye development.  Omega-3 fatty acids also help to prevent heart disease in adults.  For the American Heart Association's recommendation on eating fish, please visit heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids-UCM_303248_Article.jsp.

We are NOT recommending that you stop eating sport fish, except where Do not eat is shown in the advisory. Eating fish regularly offers several health benefits. You will gain those benefits if you follow this fish advisory information carefully to choose safer places to fish; pick safer species to eat; trim and cook you catch correctly; and follow the recommended meal frequency.  At the same time you will reduce your exposure to possible contaminants.

U.S. EPA and FDA have issued an advisory for women of child-bearing age and children. The FDA recommends that women of child-bearing age and children limit their intake of fish, including store bought fish and canned tuna, to two average meals per week (12 ounces of fish per week for an adult woman).  Albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.  Because tuna steak generally contains higher levels of mercury than canned light tuna, when choosing two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of tuna steak per week.  For more information about FDA's fish consumption advice, including information about tuna consumption, see www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm351781.htm.

Contaminants that are found in some Ohio fish include PCBs, pesticides and heavy metals such as lead and methyl mercury. The contaminants responsible for most advisories are methyl mercury and PCBs.

Mercury is a metal that occurs in nature. It does not break down, but cycles between land, air and water. Mercury may be released to the atmosphere by active volcanoes, coal-burning power plants and burning of industrial or household wastes. Bacteria in sediments convert mercury to methyl mercury, an organic compound. Methyl mercury builds up in fish through the food chain. Nearly all of the mercury found in fish is methyl mercury.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are man-made oils that were once used in carbonless copying paper and in electrical equipment such as capacitors, transformers and fluorescent light ballasts. PCBs break down very slowly in the environment. PCBs tend to stay in sediments and build up in fish through the food chain.

The levels of these compounds in Ohio fish are not known to cause immediate severe sickness.  Long-lasting contaminants such as PCBs and mercury can build up in your body over time. It may take months or years of regularly eating contaminated fish to build up amounts that are a health concern.  Health problems that may result from the contaminants in fish range from small, hard to detect health changes to birth defects, as well as mental and physical retardation in newborns.  Mothers who eat highly contaminated fish for many years before becoming pregnant may have children who are slower to develop and learn.  Therefore, women who plan to become pregnant should follow the fish consumption advice given to pregnant and nursing women for several years before becoming pregnant.  It takes up to six years or more for the body to get rid of PCBs, and up to one year to get rid of mercury. 

The advisories that protect sensitive populations also protect all other members of the general public.

Choose smaller fish (within the legal size limit). Smaller fish within a species tend to have fewer contaminants than older, larger fish, and are sometimes tastier and more tender.

Choose leaner fish. Fish that are higher in fat -- Channel Catfish and Carp, for example -- will likely have more fat and may have higher levels of PCBs and similar chemicals in their bodies. Yellow Perch, Sunfish, and Crappies are examples of lean fish.

Trim and cook your fish properly to reduce risk. This is important because all meal advice given in the advisory assumes that this has been done. Proper preparation reduces your exposure to organic chemicals like PCBs and certain pesticides. More than 50 percent of these contaminants can be eliminated by trimming fatty areas before cooking and by cooking fish in ways that allow fat to drip away. Mercury levels cannot be reduced by trimming because mercury binds to protein (the meat portion) of the fish.

Contaminants in fish can be harmful to people of all ages, but the fetus and young children are especially sensitive to contaminants because their organs and systems are not fully developed.  They are less able to deal with toxic substances than an adult.  Contaminants in fish can affect your baby more than they affect you and can be hard to detect.  It is best to prevent childhood exposure to fish contaminants in the first place.  In summary, the most sensitive groups are unborn children and children age 15 and under. This also includes women plan to become pregnant, women who are pregnant and nursing mothers. 

Periodically check this web page or contact the Ohio Department of Health or Ohio EPA for the latest information on Ohio sport fish consumption advisories.

Contacts

Call:
Ohio Department of Health
(800) 755-4769

Request publications:
Ohio EPA Public Interest Center
(614) 644-2160

Questions?
Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water
fishmail@epa.ohio.gov
(614) 644-2001

Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water
Standards and Technical Support Section
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049

The Ohio Department of Health, in cooperation with Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, issues sport fish consumption advisories under Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 3701).