Fishing is fun and fish are an important part of a healthy diet. Fish contain high quality protein, essential nutrients, healthy fish oils, and are low in saturated fat. However, some fish contain chemicals at levels that may be harmful to health.
To help people make healthier choices about which fish to eat, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) issues advice about eating fish. People can get the health benefits of fish and reduce their exposures to chemicals, or contaminants, by following the NYS DOH advice. The advisories tell people which fish to avoid and how to reduce their exposures to contaminants in the fish they do eat.
Fish from fresh waters are more likely to be contaminated than fish from remote marine waters because many fresh waters are close to human activities and contamination sources. Anglers (and others who eat fish caught by friends and family) often eat fish from a limited set of waters because they tend to return to favorite fishing locations. When those fishing locations contain fish with higher contaminant levels, the people who eat them will have higher contaminant exposures.
NYS DOH also issues advice about game, such as snapping turtles and wild waterfowl. Game may also contain chemicals at levels of concern.
The primary contaminants of concern in New York State fish are mercury and PCBs. Other contaminants such as cadmium, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, dioxin and mirex are also concerns in fish from some of the State's waterbodies. These chemicals build up in your body over time. Health problems that may result from these contaminants range from small changes in health that are hard to detect to birth defects and cancer.
Women of childbearing age (under 50) and children under 15 are advised to limit the kinds of fish they eat and how often they eat them. Women who eat highly contaminated fish and become pregnant may have an increased risk of having children who are slower to develop and learn. Chemicals may have a greater effect on the development of young children or unborn babies. Also, some chemicals may be passed on in mother’s milk.
Women beyond their childbearing years and men may face fewer health risks from some chemicals. For that reason, the advice for women over age 50 and men over age 15 allows them to eat more kinds of sportfish and more.
Contact Maureen Callamari, HRFA Project Coordinator or visit the NYS DOH website for more information on Hudson River Fish Advisories!
Last updated May 7, 2018