Beware of fish consumption warnings

Dieticians highly recommend fresh fish as a regular addition to a healthy diet, yet gone are the days when all people can be safe eating as many fish as they like.

While the American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, Idaho and Washington health officials have been documenting increased levels of mercury or PCBs building in various fish species even from airborne pollution in waters far from human development.

The key for most people is to eat moderate amounts of fish, while pregnant women and small children should restrict their consumption further in some cases.

Anglers can reduce risk by releasing the largest fish of any species and keeping the younger, smaller fish that harbor fewer pollutants. Bottomfish such as suckers are higher in contaminants and should not be eaten, Idaho Fish and Game Department experts say.

In waters known to have mercury contamination, bass, walleye and large brown trout and large mackinaw will hold more of the contaminants that salmon or rainbow trout, says IFG.

High levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, have been found in Spokane River sport fish, including the trout, notably in the Spokane Valley stretch. Health Department officials recommend that no fish be consumed if taken from Upriver Dam to the stateline. This should not be a major issue, except for poachers, since fishing regulations require trout to be released in this area.

The recommendation eases to one fish meal a month in the lower Spokane River. No fish consumption warning is in effect for the Lake Spokane (Long Lake) section of the river, except for the statewide advisory for eating largemouth or smallmouth bass.

In most cases, a fish advisory does not mean everyone should stop eating fish from a specific water, but rather it usually means monitoring consumption of certain fish or restricting kids as well as women who may bear children.

Following is a summary of state health department warnings for certain people to limit fish consumption in this region:


•Bass caught anywhere in the state, for mercury contamination, based on research in 20 lakes across the state.

•Walleye from Lake Roosevelt, for mercury.

•Lake trout on Lake Chelan, for DTT contamination.

•The Yakima River, Lake Washington, Puget Sound and others areas have their own advisories.

•PCB contamination also was found in fish taken from the Snake, Columbia and Palouse rivers, although new fish-consumption advisories are not expected on those waters.


•Kokanee, bass and bullheads from Lake Coeur d’Alene, for lead mercury and arsenic.

•Lake trout from Priest Lake, for mercury

•Lake trout and whitefish from Lake Pend Oreille, for mercury.

For details on fish consumption warnings:

Idaho: www.healthy.idaho.gov; or (866) 240-3553.

Washington: www.doh.wa.gov/fish; or (877) 485-7316.

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