Delaware issues updated fish consumption advisories
Updated advisories for the C&D Canal, Red Lion Creek,
St. Jones Watershed reflect long-term environmental improvements
DOVER (July 3, 2014) – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health today updated fish consumption advisories for fish caught in three Delaware waterways: the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal (C&D Canal); the Red Lion Creek; and the St. Jones watershed. The updated advisories are a result of new data on chemical contaminants in fish caught in the three waterways. Overall, the changes in the advisories reflect long-term environmental improvements.
The fish consumption advisory for the C&D Canal has been updated to a less-restrictive advisory due to falling levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, and chlorinated pesticides. The previous advice, in place since 1999, has been changed from “Eat no finfish caught in the C&D Canal” to “Eat no more than one eight ounce meal of finfish per year.” This brings the advice for the C&D Canal in line with that for the Delaware River between the Delaware State Line near Marcus Hook, Pa. downstream to the eastern end of the C&D Canal near Delaware City.
The fish consumption advisory for the Red Lion Creek between Route 1 and the tide gate which separates Red Lion Creek from the Delaware River has also been updated to less restrictive advice. The previous advice, in place since 2006, has been changed from “Eat no more than one eight ounce meal of finfish per year” to “Eat no more than two eight ounce meals of finfish per year.” The change in advice is based on falling concentrations of the contaminants PCBs, dioxins and furans, and chlorinated benzenes in the fish.
In addition to the updated advisory between Route 1 and the tide gate, first-time fish sampling of the Red Lion Creek near Route 7 (upstream of Route 1) revealed modest levels of PCBs and the pesticide Dieldrin. This discovery has prompted the State to issue a new advisory for fish caught from waters of the Red Lion Creek upstream of Route 1. The new advisory for that area is to “Eat no more than 12 eight-ounce meals of finfish per year” (which is the same as one eight-ounce meal per month).
Finally, several updated fish consumption advisories are being issued today for the St. Jones watershed in Kent County. The advice for Dover’s Silver Lake, plus the entire St. Jones River from the Silver Lake dam out to where the St. Jones River flows into the Delaware Bay is being revised to less restrictive. The previous advice to “Eat no more than two eight-ounce meals of finfish per year” from these waters has been changed to “Eat no more than four eight-ounce meals of finfish per year” from these waters. Recent testing of fish indicates that concentrations of PCBs, dioxins and furans, chlorinated pesticides and mercury have all fallen over time in these waters.
Furthermore, fish consumption advisories for Moores Lake and Wyoming Pond, both of which are located within the St. Jones watershed, are also being revised to less restrictive. The advisory for Moores Lake has been changed from “Eat no more than two eight-ounce meals per year” to “Eat no more than 12 eight-ounce meals per year” (which is the same as one eight-ounce meal per month). Concentrations of all major contaminants in fish found in Moores Lake have dropped. For Wyoming Pond, the advisory has been changed from “Eat no more than two eight-ounce meals per year” to “Eat no more than 24 eight-ounce meals per year” (which is the same as two eight-ounce meals per month). The concentration of the banned pesticide DDT in Wyoming Pond fish, previously the highest- measured in Delaware, has dropped significantly, as have other contaminants.
Although the vast majority of fish tissue testing in the St. Jones Watershed shows significant improvements, new samples from Fork Branch show moderate levels of mercury in the fish there. Fork Branch flows into Silver Lake from the north Dover area after passing by Delaware State University. The new advisory for Fork Branch is to “Eat no more than 24 meals of fish per year” (which is the same as two eight-ounce meals per month). This advice applies between College Road (Road 99) and McKee Road (Road 155) in Dover.
“The improvements we’re seeing in these updated advisories are a result of our investment over time in technologies and practices along with stringent regulatory standards designed to clean up our waterways,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “With the diligent work of our many public and private partners at the local, state and regional level, we are trending in the right direction but progress is slow in coming. Attaining our goals of waters that are safe for swimming, drinking and aquatic life means we must be much more aggressive in our approach, which will require the type of additional investment and strategies that Governor Markell has proposed.”
Fishing is a popular recreational activity in Delaware and many people eat their catch. Although eating fish in moderation as part of a healthy diet may provide health benefits, fish can accumulate contaminants from the water, sediment and from the food they eat. Contaminants may build up over time in fish tissues even with extremely small amounts of chemicals in the water. The amount of contaminants in fish depends on the species, size, age, sex and feeding area of the fish. Chemicals, such as PCBs, mercury and dioxin in fish are a health risk for people who regularly consume their catch.
In addition to the advisories mentioned above, DNREC and DHSS remind the public of the general statewide fish consumption advisory first issued in 2007:
Eat no more than one meal per week of any fish caught in Delaware’s fresh, estuarine and marine waters. This advisory applies to all waters and fish species not otherwise explicitly covered by an advisory.
The statewide advisory is issued to caution and protect against eating large amounts of fish and fish that have not been tested, or that may contain unidentified chemical contaminants. Delaware issues more stringent advice for specific waters when justified by the data. One meal is defined as an eight-ounce serving for adults and as a three-ounce serving for children.
People who choose to eat species under advisories can take steps to reduce exposure. Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue, so proper cleaning and cooking techniques can significantly reduce levels of PCBs, dioxins, chlorinated pesticides and other organic chemicals. Larger fish of a given species will likely have higher concentrations. To reduce your risks of ingesting these chemical contaminants, you should:
Remove all skin.
Slice off fat belly meat along the bottom of the fish.
Cut away any fat above the fish’s backbone.
Cut away the V-shaped wedge of fat along the lateral line on each side of the fish.
Bake or broil trimmed fish on a rack or grill so some of the remaining fat drips away.
Discard any drippings. Do not eat drippings or use them for cooking other foods.
However, you should know that these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from fish.
A chart which shows all fish consumption advisories for Delaware waters, including the new and revised advisories issued today, can be found on DNREC’s web site, http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Advisories.aspx. Note that the new and revised advisories issued today are not reflected in the 2014 Delaware Fishing Guide that was made available at local tackle shops and fishing license dealers in early 2014. In addition to the web page, the DHSS’ Division of Public Health also posts fish advisory signs along waterways with consumption advisories.
For more information, contact Rick Greene, DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship, 302-739-9939.
Visit the following U.S. government websites for information on federal fish consumption advisories, on mercury in fish and shellfish, and on how to safely select and serve fresh and frozen fish.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/ost/fish
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm110591.htm and