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Are My Fish Safe To Eat?

by: theangler

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Bigfish Tackle The On-Line Fishing Resource Center

You may have questions about eating fish caught in some Kansas waters. The good news is that it's safe to eat fish caught from the vast majority of Kansas waters. Fishing in Kansas is a wonderful tradition and family activity, and it also provides nutritious, low-fat table fare with cardiovascular benefits. If you've caught fish from one of the dozens of Kansas reservoirs, hundreds of state fishing and community lakes, tens of thousands of farm ponds or miles of rivers, you can rest assured they are safe to eat.

There are some advisories on fish consumption, but they are limited to small sections of rivers and streams near urban areas and a couple of waters in the Mined Land Wildlife Area in Cherokee County. However, conditions are getting better each year. Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) data indicates significant declines in the insecticide chlordane, PCBs, and mercury at most long-term monitoring sites. As long-lasting but long banned chemicals decay, waters get cleaner, and as other chemicals are more cautiously used because of education efforts, waters get cleaner still.
*Bottom-feeding fish include catfish
Fish consumption advisories are simply guides for the public to make informed choices about their health and diet. Advisories identify species of fish that should be eaten in limited quantities or, in even rarer cases, avoided altogether due to contamination.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) have issued annual fish consumption advisories for 2007. The advisories identify species of fish that should be eaten in limited quantities, or in some cases, avoided altogether because of contamination found in tested fish.

The advisories include guidelines for mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish, perchlorate in fish and other aquatic life, and lead and cadmium in shellfish. Trend data from most Kansas long-term monitoring sites show a decrease in mercury and PCBs. PCBs have not been in use in the U.S. since the 1970s and chlordane use was discontinued in 1988. Chlordane levels have declined dramatically statewide, and PCB levels are expected to follow. PCBs and chlordane degrade slowly, so it takes decades for them to be completely removed from the environment, even after use is discontinued.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a national fish consumption advisory for mercury which recommends consuming no more than one 8-ounce serving per week of non-commercial (locally caught) fish. EPA bases this on nationwide average mercury levels in various species of fish and recommends first consideration be given to local advisories. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should avoid eating largesized predatory fish such as largemouth bass, or consult their physician. Additional testing for contaminants in fish and other aquatic life will continue on an annual basis.

The advisories assess cancer risk levels using EPA methods. Cancer risk assessment is a method to determine the added increase in cancer levels in a population if fish in the advisory areas are consumed regularly over a 70-year period. Assessments that estimate the increased risk of cancer as greater than one in 100,000 are determined to be unacceptably high-risk levels. Risk assessments for contaminants assessed as non-carcinogens (mercury, lead, and cadmium) are based on 8-ounce servings for adults and 4-ounce servings for children 9 to 18 years of age.

For more information, contact the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, (785) 296-5571.

From farm ponds to state fishing lakes to federal reservoirs, Kansas has some excellent fishing. Fish taken from these waters tend to be safe, are generally low in pesticides and make excellent eating with many health benefits when all advisories are followed. This season, if you have put your rod and reel in storage for fear of the quality of the fish meat you might catch, dust them off and head to the lake. Your favorite pastime is waiting for you.
Kansas recommends not eating fish or aquatic life from the following locations for the reasons stated:

1. The Kansas River from Lawrence (below Bowersock Dam) downstream to Eudora at the confluence of the Wakarusa River for bottomfeeding fish* because of PCB levels;
2. Horseshoe Lake located in units 22 and 23 of the Mined Lands Wildlife Area (Cherokee County) for all forms of aquatic life in addition to all fish because of perchlorate levels;
3. The Spring River from the confluence of Center Creek to the Kansas/Oklahoma border (Cherokee County) for shellfish (mussels, clams, and crayfish) because of lead and cadmium levels; and
4. Shoal Creek from the Missouri/Kansas border to Empire Lake (Cherokee County) for shellfish because of lead and cadmium levels.
*Bottom-feeding fish include carp, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, freshwater drum, bullheads, sturgeons, buffalos, carpsuckers, and other sucker species.

In addition, Kansas recommends a limit of one 8-ounce serving per month, or twelve 8-ounce servings per year, on the consumption of bottom-feeding fish from the following locations due to PCBs:

1. The Arkansas River from the Lincoln St. dam in Wichita downstream to the confluence with Cowskin Creek near Belle Plaine (Sedgwick and Sumner counties);
2. Cow Creek in Hutchinson and downstream to the confluence with the Arkansas River (Reno County) due to the average levels of mercury, Kansas recommends a limit of one 8-ounce serving per week for adults or one 4-ounce serving per week for children 12 years of age or younger of any species of fish from the following locations;
3. The Little Arkansas River from the Main Street Bridge immediately west of Valley Center to the confluence with the Arkansas River in Wichita (Sedgwick County); and
4. The main stem of the Blue River from U.S. 69 Highway to the Kansas/Missouri state line (Johnson County).

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Added: Wed May 06 2009
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009

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