Shelbyville Daily Union

Local News

February 9, 2011

2011 Sports Fish Consumption Advisory Issued

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — As winter draws to a close and spring is just around the corner, many area and state anglers start to think about the fishing season.  There are a lot of fishermen who are the catch and release type of anglers, but many take the fish home for consumption. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has announced a 2011 Sports Fish Consumption Advisory for sport fish caught in Illinois waters.  There are two lakes and one river locally that are affected.  The two lakes are Lake Sara by Effingham and Pana Lake.  The one river is the Little Wabash River and it’s tributaries.  Those three fishing areas are on the special mercury advisory list.

Jeff Houska, L.E.H.P., Director of Environmental Health Services said that although Lake Shelbyville is not on the mercury list, there is a statewide mercury advisory.

“That statewide advisory would apply to Lake Shelbyville and people that are classified as the sensitive population (Sensitive population includes women of childbearing age, pregnant women,  fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15 years of age.), “ said Houska.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program screens fish samples from approximately 40 bodies of water each year for contamination from 14 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.  IDPH issues an annual consumption advisory based on the IEPA test results.  This year’s advisory is included in the 2011 Illinois Fishing Information booklet, which is available from IDNR and from businesses that sell state fishing licenses.  The advisory also can be found on the IDPH web site

“The advisories are not meant to discourage people from eating fish, but should be used as a guideline to help people decide the types of fish to eat and how often,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold.  “Fish are a good source of high quality protein and other nutrients and are low in fat.  However, contaminants may make some fish unsafe to eat except in limited quantities, particularly for women of childbearing age and young children.”

While there is no known immediate health hazard 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, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and methylmercury.  Methylmercury has been found to cause reproduction damage and have adverse effects on the central nervous system, including developmental delays.

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, flathead catfish, muskellunge, northern pike, saugeye, sauger, and walleye.

Local bodies of water that are included in the statewide mercury advisory are Lake Sara in Effingham County, the Little Wabash River and tributaries and the Pana Lake.

For fish that may contain PCBs and chlordane, The advisory provides consumption 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 of source of sport fish consumed - opting for 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 contaminates - can limit their exposure to harmful substances that may be found in fish.

Several ways to reduce any PCBs and chlordane present in edible portions of fish include:

*Remove the skin from the fillet and cut away any fatty tissue from the belly and dorsal areas before cooking.

*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 tissue (the edible part of the fish) rather than fat and skin.  Therefore, the only way to reduce intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish eaten.

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