Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (April 7, 2006) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is updating its fish consumption guidelines based on new information about levels of pollutants in fish from previously unmonitored locations. These guidelines give recreational fishermen and their families the ability to make informed decisions regarding their consumption of fish.

The latest results of MDE’s statewide testing program indicate that new consumption guidelines for recreational fishing are needed in the Maryland portion of the Anacostia River for bottom feeding fish, including bullhead, catfish, and American eel, as well as sunfish and largemouth bass. The contaminants responsible for the new guidelines are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a now banned substance previously used as an insulating fluid, and is generally considered as the most common contaminant in fish throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. MDE also recommends that individuals avoid eating carp from the Anacostia River, as these fish can also have high levels of PCBs. The advisory for carp in the Maryland portion of the Anacostia River is based on the advisory for carp issued by the District of Columbia.

“We know that a healthy diet should include fish and shellfish, including seafood from the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland waters,” MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick said. “The data that MDE is publishing today shows that Maryland families can continue to safely include fish in their diets if they follow basic precautions and pay attention to state and federal fish consumption guidelines. 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 recommendations for the Anacostia are as follows: for bottom feeders like eel, bullhead and catfish, the department recommends not more than one meal per month for the general population, and less than 1 meal per month (between 5 and 11 meals per year for women and young children), depending on species. Higher consumption is allowed for bass and sunfish, about 3 meals per month for the general population, 2 meals per month for women of child-bearing age, and a little more than 1 meal per month for young children.

New guidelines also instruct women of childbearing age and young children to avoid walleye caught in Savage River Reservoir due to elevated mercury. Updates for black crappie, a popular freshwater panfish, are also included for several new locations.

The new guidelines reflect analysis of new data, not new sources of contamination. All of these updates, as well as all existing consumption guidelines are available on MDE’s website.

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 the MDE website. Information on fish preparation can also be found on the MDE website.

New inserts are being placed in the “Fish Facts” guides for residents in the Anacostia area. Consumption guideline posters will be posted at fishing locations along the Anacostia River by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. MDE’s guidelines are also published in the fishing guides issued to individuals when purchasing their annual fishing licenses.