Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (April 7, 2006) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is releasing consumption guidelines for recreational catch of brown bullhead catfish in the South River due to levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) observed in samples collected in spring of 2005. The guidelines recommend that young children (between the ages of 0-6) eat less than eight meals per month of bullhead caught in that waterway. In addition, new guidelines are being issued for American eel recommending approximately 3 meals per month for the general population, and a guideline of approximately 2 meals per month for women of child-bearing age and young children. MDE also has existing guidelines for spot and white perch in the South River.

“Maryland families can safely include fish in their diets if they follow basic, commonsense precautions,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “As always, MDE recommends avoiding consumption of fish or shellfish that have lesions, sores or other visible problems, or has a bad odor or taste following preparation.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently released reports of tumors in bullhead from the South River. These lesions may be caused by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another common contaminant distinct from PCBs. PAHs are common in runoff from streets and from burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum products. Follow-up studies conducted by USFWS will establish the actual cause of the lesions. A fact sheet for the USFWS study can be downloaded from their website,

The guidelines for bullhead are only for children because the concentrations are relatively low compared to levels that would trigger a recommendation for adults. Guidelines were not developed for other populations since the number of bullhead meals allowed was greater than eight meals per month - the maximum threshold for which guidelines are developed.

MDE is continuing to distribute its color-coded “Fish Facts” guide to consumption of fish and shellfish for women and children. The guide, co-sponsored by the state’s Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program, includes Maryland fish and shellfish, and commercial seafood from stores and restaurants, and distinguishes among fish that are safe to eat (eight meals per month), fish from areas safe when eaten in moderation (up to four meals a month), fish from areas where consumption should be limited (one serving each month), and areas where fish should not be eaten. The guides are available upon request in English or Spanish, or can be downloaded from MDE’s website.

Additional information on fish preparation can be found on MDE’s website: