New Jersey, Delaware Ease Advisories on Certain Fish

Action indicates drop in contamination, but some shellfish and other fish should be avoided, especially by women of childbearing age

New Jersey and Delaware are easing consumption advisories on certain fish caught in the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, a rare joint action suggesting improving ecological conditions as levels of contamination drop.

The announcement by the state Department of Environmental Protection acting Commissioner Catherine McCabe and counterparts in Delaware applies most broadly to weakfish, on which all advisories for the general population and those considered at higher risk are removed.

In addition, the states increased the acceptable consumption limit for all finfish caught in the Delaware River south of the Delaware-Pennsylvania border to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to three meals per year compared with the previous limit of one fish per year. High-risk individuals, which include women of childbearing age and children, are still advised to eat no fish from this area.

“These changes reflect an ongoing trend in which contamination from past pollution such as PCBs and pesticides continues to decline,” McCabe said. “We encourage all anglers to take a few minutes to review fish advisories by the DEP and New Jersey Department of Health so they can make sound decisions on safe consumption of fish.”

Unfortunately, fish consumption advisories abound in all states, including New Jersey. There are advisories about consuming contaminated fish stretching from the Hudson River to the Raritan Bay along the Atlantic Ocean to the Delaware Bay. The advisories range from warnings about lobster, flounder, and striped bass to blue crab.
All too often, the fish advisories are ignored, especially in urban areas where anglers depend on the catch to supplement their families’ daily diet.

While water quality in New Jersey continues to improve, past pollution can persist for many years in sediments and continue to accumulate in fish at or near the top of the aquatic food chain. As a result, some recreationally caught fish can contain mercury, PCBs, and pesticides that may be unhealthy for children or women of childbearing age.

“For the first time, we are seeing where some fish advisories are being eased,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, “however, we have a long way to go. There is still some fish that we cannot eat.”

“New Jersey residents should be aware that environmental contaminants can create health risks for people eating fish caught recreationally in the state,” said New Jersey Department of Health acting Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. ” However, by following the guidelines in our advisories the public can safely include fish and other seafood they’ve caught as part of their healthy diet.”

A full listing of revisions to advisories in the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, as well as a statewide list of advisories, have been posted online.