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How to Choose Safe Fish to Eat: A Comprehensive Guide

The Lakes and Waters of Michigan have PCBs, Dioxins, and Mercury found Great Lake Superior, Great Lake Michigan, Great Lake Huron, and Mercury throught all fish in the smaller lakes and rivers.

When you clean your fish, try trimming away as much of the fat as you can see. Some chemicals, like PCBs and dioxin, are stored in the fat. If you cut out the fat, you cut down on the chemicals in your fish. Just note, you can’t remove mercury or PFOS from your fish by trimming. Mercury and PFOS are stored in the meat of the fish.

Not only is grilling or broiling your fish healthier than frying, it also helps to get rid of more chemical-carrying fat. When you cook a fish on a grate, any fat hiding inside the filet can melt and drip away from the fish. This removes even more of those harmful chemicals.

PCBs in U.P. Great Lakes Fish:

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a group of synthetic chemicals that were used in various industrial applications, such as electrical equipment, hydraulic fluids, and plasticizers. However, their production was banned in the United States in 1979 due to their harmful effects on human health and the environment.

PCBs are known to persist in the environment for a long time and can bioaccumulate in the food chain. This means that small organisms absorb PCBs from water or sediment, and when larger fish or other animals consume these organisms, the PCBs accumulate in their bodies at higher concentrations. As a result, fish at the top of the food chain, such as large predator species, tend to have higher levels of PCBs.

Michigan, being home to the Great Lakes, is an area where PCB contamination in fish has been a concern. The Great Lakes have experienced PCB pollution due to industrial activities, wastewater discharges, and atmospheric deposition. PCBs can enter the lakes through various pathways, including rivers and direct industrial discharges.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) conducts regular monitoring and assessment of fish from Michigan waters to determine the levels of PCB contamination. Fish consumption advisories are issued based on these assessments to provide guidance to anglers and the public regarding the consumption of fish.

The advisories typically recommend limits on the consumption of certain fish species or specify size restrictions, especially for larger predator fish like lake trout, salmon, and walleye, which tend to accumulate higher levels of PCBs. The aim is to minimize exposure to PCBs and other contaminants present in fish.

Consuming fish contaminated with PCBs can pose risks to human health. PCBs are known to be toxic and can cause a range of adverse health effects, including developmental and neurological problems, immune system suppression, and cancer.

It’s important for individuals to stay informed about fish consumption advisories in their specific areas, follow the recommended guidelines, and take precautions when consuming fish caught from contaminated waters. Additionally, efforts to reduce PCB contamination through proper waste management, industrial practices, and environmental remediation are crucial to safeguarding aquatic ecosystems and human health.

Dioxins in U.P. Great Lakes Fish:

Dioxins are a group of highly toxic chemical compounds that are primarily released into the environment as byproducts of industrial processes and certain natural events, such as forest fires. They are persistent organic pollutants and have the potential to bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in aquatic ecosystems.

Upper Michigan, also known as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is surrounded by the Great Lakes, which are a significant source of fish for the region. Due to the historical industrial activities in the area, such as paper manufacturing and mining, there have been concerns about dioxin contamination in the fish found in Upper Michigan.

Dioxins can enter aquatic ecosystems through air and water emissions from industrial sources, as well as through deposition from the atmosphere. Once released into the environment, they can settle in bodies of water and contaminate sediments. Fish, being a part of the aquatic food chain, can ingest dioxins when they feed on contaminated organisms or absorb them through the water they swim in.

Fish species vary in their ability to accumulate and retain dioxins. Some species, such as lake trout and whitefish, are known to accumulate higher levels of dioxins compared to others. The accumulation of dioxins in fish depends on various factors, including the species’ diet, habitat, age, and size.

To assess the levels of dioxin contamination in fish, environmental monitoring programs and studies are conducted. These programs analyze fish tissue samples for dioxin levels and compare them to established safety guidelines and regulatory limits. If the levels of dioxins in fish are found to exceed these limits, it can raise concerns for human health, particularly for individuals who consume contaminated fish regularly.

To mitigate the risks associated with dioxin exposure, fish consumption advisories may be issued by relevant authorities. These advisories provide guidelines on the safe consumption of fish, including recommendations on species, sizes, and consumption frequencies that minimize exposure to dioxins and other contaminants.

It’s worth noting that specific information about dioxin levels in Upper Michigan fish, including any recent data or advisories, may vary over time. Therefore, it is advisable to consult the relevant local or state agencies responsible for monitoring and issuing fish consumption advisories in the area for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Mercury has been found in all U.P. Fish:

Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal that can be found in the environment, including bodies of water. It is released into the environment through various industrial processes, such as coal combustion, and can accumulate in fish and other aquatic organisms. When humans consume fish that contain high levels of mercury, it can have adverse effects on health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, infants, and young children.

Mercury primarily affects the nervous system, and high levels of exposure can lead to neurological and developmental problems. In pregnant women, mercury can cross the placenta and affect the developing fetus, leading to cognitive and developmental impairments. In infants and young children, exposure to mercury can result in learning difficulties, delays in motor skills, and impaired cognitive function.

Different species of fish have varying levels of mercury, with larger and predatory fish tending to accumulate higher amounts due to biomagnification (the process in which mercury levels increase as it moves up the food chain). Examples of fish that are known to have higher mercury levels include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tile fish.

To protect public health, regulatory agencies provide guidelines on fish consumption, especially for vulnerable populations. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued joint advice recommending that pregnant women, breastfeeding women, women who may become pregnant, and young children should avoid consuming high-mercury fish and limit their intake of fish to species that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon, Pollock, and catfish.

It’s important to note that the overall benefits of consuming fish, which is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients, outweigh the risks of mercury exposure. However, individuals should be mindful of the types and amounts of fish they consume, especially if they belong to the vulnerable groups mentioned above. Consulting local health advisories and guidelines can provide specific recommendations based on the region and the fish species commonly found there.

It’s always a good idea to stay informed about the latest research and recommendations regarding fish consumption and mercury levels, as guidelines may be updated periodically based on new scientific findings.

Size of Fish(length in inches) Chemical of Concern MI Servings per Month* Type of Fish

Black Crappie Mercury Any Size 4

Bluegill Mercury Any Size 8

Brown Trout Mercury Any Size 4

Bullhead Mercury Any Size 4

Carp PCBs Any Size 2

Catfish PCBs & Mercury Any Size 4

Largemouth Bass Mercury
Under 18” 2
Over 18” 1

Muskellunge Mercury Any Size 1

Northern Pike Mercury
Under 30” 2
Over 30” 1

Rock Bass Mercury Any Size 4

Smallmouth Bass Mercury
Under 18” 2
Over 18” 1

Suckers Mercury Any Size 8

Sunfish Mercury Any Size 8

Walleye Mercury
Under 20” 2
Over 20” 1

White Crappie Mercury Any Size 4

Yellow Perch Mercury Any Size 4



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