Fishing season is open! Fish is a good, low-fat, and economical source of protein. Many healthy heart programs recommend eating more fish meals due to the effect of fish oils. Other nutrients such as the selenium and iodine found in fish are also beneficial for health. Recent studies have shown that eating fish during pregnancy may improve a child’s IQ and ability to learn. However, because some fish tend to take up chemicals (such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl’s- PCBs), many people, including pregnant women, have backed away from eating fish. But this is not necessary if you choose smartly.
To help you choose the safest fish, each fishing season, the CT Department of Public Health (DPH) issues its annual fish consumption advisory for fish caught in CT waters and for fish from a market. The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) 2017 edition of If I Catch It, Can I Eat It? A Guide to Safe Eating of Fish Caught in Connecticut has been released. According to the press release accompanying the brochure, the guide has been updated in response to new sampling data that has indicated higher levels of fish contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Housatonic River and the Lakes Lillinonah, Zoar and Housatonic that are fed by the river. These PCBs are associated with the former General Electric Company (GE) transformer manufacturing facility in Pittsfield, MA.
In the DPH press release, Brian Toal, an Epidemiologist with DPH’s Environmental Health Section states, “The purpose of this DPH guide is to give advice on how to safely eat fish caught in Connecticut. The guide also emphasizes store bought fish with a list of good fish to eat and fish to limit or avoid.” He notes, “Fish are a good source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids, a nutrient thought to help protect people from heart disease and beneficial to the developing fetus. As a result, DPH recommends that the public continue to eat fish. However, certain guidelines should be followed in order to eat fish safely.”
The DPH press release further states that the higher levels of fish contamination may be due to recent weather events and/or remedial work in the Pittsfield, MA area located in the upper part of the Housatonic River watershed. The new data resulted in more restrictive advice for largemouth and smallmouth bass in Lakes Lillinonah, Zoar and Housatonic. Pregnant woman and children should not eat bass from the lakes and others should not eat more than one meal every 2 months. Fish sampling for PCBs in the Housatonic River will continue in future years and the consumption advisory will be reviewed annually based on that data.
DPH states the standard advice for fish caught in Connecticut for high risk groups, like pregnant women and children, is to eat no more than one meal per month of freshwater fish caught in Connecticut. For all other groups, the advice is to eat no more than one meal per week of freshwater fish. This standard advice is due to mercury contamination found in Connecticut freshwater fish. In addition, there is a guideline that recommends limiting or avoiding striped bass and bluefish caught in Long Island Sound due to Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) contamination. The advisory guide also has a listing of the water bodies and species in Connecticut with specific consumption recommendations. Both the English and Spanish versions of the guide are available at all tackle shops, local health departments, and town clerk offices. You can access the guide online, https://tinyurl.com/mmbvdmm.
If you do not have internet access, Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) can call this office, 203 248-4528 to request a copy. Visit our webpage, www.qvhd.org and like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.