A long string of strong national and state water quality regulations are paying dividends, their impact being seen in a number of less restrictive Ohio fish consumption advisories.
Ohio’s advisory program is administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. This government organ works closely with both the Ohio departments of Health and Natural Resources in developing the advisories.
The current slate of advisories were based on scientific analysis derived from 503 fish samples and as taken from 16 lakes and 19 streams in 2013.
And the term “advisories” is an important cachet, too. People are free to observe the recommendations, modify them or even ignore them.
What these advisories represent, says state officials, is a set of guidelines to help people minimize the potential health risks associated with eating fish that do – or may – contain potentially harmful chemicals if allowed to accumulate over many years.
As often as not the greatest health threat comes from PCBs and mercury.
Among the most significant advisory updates noted within the newly announced 2015 Sport Fish Consumption Advisory package is the removal of all “Do Not Eat” recommendations for Northeast Ohio’s Mahoning River, says Ohio EPA spokeswoman Linda Fee Oros.
Instead, says Oros, these “Do Not Eat” advisories are being replaced with less stringent recommendations and applicable for Mahoning River from Rockhill Avenue to the state line.
Among the eased suggestions is one that notes an okay for eating one meal per month of smallmouth bass and for all lengths. Previously the advisory cautioned against eating any smallmouth bass over 15 inches, and just one meal per every two months for fish under 15 inches.
Also, the Ohio EPA is giving the okay to eat channel catfish of any length taken from the stream on a one meal/every two months basis. Previously the recommendation cautioned against eating any Mahoning River channel catfish longer than 21 inches.
Similarly the state is advising that people can eat one meal per week of Mahoning River-caught largemouth bass.
“There are also improved advisories listed for Lake Erie, the Tiffin River, and Findley Lakes,” Oros says.
That listing for Lake Erie recommends that people eat no more than one meal a month of smallmouth bass, due to the risk associated with both PCBs and mercury.
And remaining in place is the statewide advisory of just one meal per week of any species and of any size and due to the threat of mercury in the fish’s tissue, Oros says.
“Fish contaminated with high levels of mercury have been shown to cause neurological damage and impaired development in young children,” Oros said.
Mercury is a persistent issue when it comes to water quality with some of the chief sources coming from the smoky discharge of coal-fired power plants and gold-mining operations as well as various other human-interaction sources. Naturally, mercury is released by volcanic eruptions.
“Fish consumption evaluations and advisories help Ohio’s anglers to make informed decisions about consuming their catch,” Oros says. “And fish low in contaminants can be an important part of a healthy diet.”
Additional information about fish consumption safety that are specifically applicable to women of child-bearing age, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children under age 15 is available via the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Centers, county health departments, the Ohio EPA and the Natural Resources Department’s regional offices.
Downloadable copies likewise can be accessed at the Ohio EPA’s website – www.epa.ohio.gov or by calling 614-644-2160.
Jeffrey L. FrischkornJFrischk@Ameritech.net
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.