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Health Risks From Eating NJ Fish Suppressed

Unsafe at Any Feed

With the recent flurry of press releases coming out of DEP on fishing, e.g. the promotion of the start of the trout fishing season and launch of the free saltwater registry, we thought we’d look into the status of the DEP’s 2011 fish consumption advisories.

So we went over to the DEP’s press release webpage and found nothing – including nothing in the year 2010.

So, because we are experts on DEP, we knew where to look on the DEP website (the public would not be likely to find this material).

We navigated to the DEP’s Office of Science (formerly Division, but downsized) “Fish Smart, Eat Smart NJ” page.

We did not miss the highlighted “New” material, which was the 2010 advisories, adopted in May 2010.

But curiously – because the whole purpose of the advisories is to warn the public – DEP failed to issue any press release in 2010 when these advisories were adopted by DEP scientists.

Despite the start of the 2011 season, DEP has yet to update the 2010 advisories or issue a press release. 

Please read the 2010 advisories before you eat any fish caught in NJ waters – especially high risk individuals, which include infants, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and women of childbearing age.

According to DEP:

This booklet summarizes the marine, estuarine and fresh water fish consumption advisories for New Jersey including new fish consumption advisories for the Atlantic Coastal Plain Region. It provides you with information on how to reduce your risk by avoiding or limiting consumption of certain fish. It also offers guidance in how to prepare the fish you eat from local waters in ways that reduce your exposure to PCBs, dioxins and mercury.

For high risk indivduals, there are statewide “Do Not Eat” advisories issued for striped bass, bluefish, American eel, and lobster.

Crabbing in Newark Bay Complex is banned. Here’s why:


The estimated lifetime excess [cancer] risk from consumption of crabs from the Newark Bay Complex ranges from a low of 5,000 per million to a high of more than 1.0 million per million (i.e. greater than a 100% risk). The values calculated here are extremely high, and they are consistently high based on data from 3 different studies, including those specific to the PRSA. (DEP risk assessment – @page 8

There are Statewide one meal per week or per month limits for trout (brown, brook, rainbow), largemouth bass, smallmouth basss, chain pickerel, yellow bullhead, and brown bullhead. 

There also are lists of waterbody specific advisories – including “Do Not Eat” – that should be consulted. 

For example, it would shock most people to know that the popular summer flounder should not be eaten more than once per week.

I would hope that NJ media would ask DEP why they have the time to issue “Free Saltwater Registry” press releases and other self promotional propaganda, but no time to warn the public about health risks from consuming contaminated fish.

And BTW, while DEP saw no need to distribute this science and warn the public about these health risks in May 2010, DEP did think it was important to issue a May 2010 press release attacking Senator Buono COMMISSIONER MARTIN REFUTES STATEMENT BY SENATOR BUONO WANTS GOOD SCIENCE TO BE BASIS OF PERCHLORATE RULES

[Update: Note from a fisherman friend: “Also worth noting that the hard copy publication of fishing regs, which is distributed in tackle shops across, doesn’t highlight contamination concerns either. ”

[Update 2: another note from a birder friend, who reminded me that the public comment period is open on an important EPA proposed air toxics rule on mercury emissions from power plants (and other sources), and upcoming hearing in Philly on May 24:

WASHINGTON  – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold three public hearings in May on the proposed mercury and air toxics standards. The new power plant mercury and air toxics standards would require many power plants to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to cut harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year.

Public hearings on proposed mercury and air toxics standards

 May 24 and 26, 2011

Each hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 8 p.m. (local time)

May 24: Chicago, Ill.

Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
799 W. Madison St.
Chicago, Ill. 60611
May 24: Philadelphia, Pa.
Westin Philadelphia
99 S. 17th Street at Liberty Place
Philadelphia, Pa. 19103
May 26: Atlanta, Ga.
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth St. SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30303-8960
The public may register to speak at a specific time at a hearing by contacting Pamela Garrett at 919-541-7966 or garrett.pamela@epa.gov or registering in person on the day of a hearing. EPA also will accept written comments on the proposed standards until July 5, 2011. EPA will finalize the rule by November 2011.
More information on the hearings and instructions for submitting written comments: http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/

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  1. Margo Pellegrino
    May 4th, 2011 at 10:13 | #1

    wow. really, in who’s interest is the DEP acting? certainly not consumers of fish! maybe in this era of “right to know,” they forgot fish don’t come labeled with the contaminants they contain?

  2. May 4th, 2011 at 10:48 | #2

    @Margo Pellegrino
    Thanks Margo – right on.

    Check this out – this kind of arrogance really pisses me off – DEP blames the PUBLIC for lack of posted advisories:

    “It is important to note that taking or attempting to take blue crabs or selling blue crabs from the Newark Bay Complex is prohibited. This information is provided in DEP fish consumption publications and advisories. This information is also periodically posted at known fishing areas around the complex, but the postings are often removed by the public.”


    Newark crabs are MORE THAN a 100% cancer risk – cancer guaranteed (or your money back?) !

  1. June 4th, 2011 at 10:02 | #1
  2. July 18th, 2011 at 13:50 | #2
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