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March 4, 2004

Contact: Elaine Makatura


(04/14) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) today issued revised fish consumption advisories for waters of the Delaware Estuary which include the Delaware River downstream of the Pennsylvania border and Delaware Bay - waters shared by both states.

"The waters of the Delaware Bay and estuary provide excellent opportunities for recreational fishing and enjoyment," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "Different and sometimes conflicting advisories used in shared waters often confuse the public. Providing a common message to the fishing public in both states will help people make informed choices about the fish they eat."

The consistent advisories result from meetings between the states, as well as data collection and agreement on technical issues. The advisories recommend limiting consumption of certain fish by the general population. However, both states recommend that high-risk consumers (women of childbearing age and children) not consume any of these fish from these waters.

"The nutritional and health benefits of eating fish are well established, and these advisories can help people make better choices of the fish to consume," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. "These shared advisories will help the public make informed decisions concerning consumption of recreational fish, as well as help reduce exposure to contaminants."

"This cooperative effort underscores both Delaware and New Jersey's commitment to inform and protect public health while continuing to encourage the public to enjoy the tremendous recreational opportunities that the Delaware Estuary offers," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary John A. Hughes. Added Hughes, "Our ultimate goal is to clean up these waters so that we no longer need fish consumption advisories."

Tom Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association added "This is great news for recreational anglers, one message to those fishing and enjoying the resources of the Delaware Estuary. One common message in shared waters is a more effective strategy to inform the public."

There are numerous benefits for establishing consistent advisories in New Jersey's shared waters, especially for a large water body such as Delaware Bay. These include a more effective and concise public message, coordinated state outreach efforts, increased public comprehension, and most importantly increased protection of public health from the bioaccumulative contaminants found in elevated levels in some local fish species.

Consumption advisories are being issued for the Delaware River from the Pennsylvania border near Marcus Hook to the Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal, and from the C&D Canal to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Advisories for the Delaware River above the C&D Canal remain the same for both states and recommend that the public not eat any finfish from this area. Advisories for the section downstream of the C&D Canal including the entire Delaware Bay include striped bass, bluefish, white perch, American eel, channel catfish and white catfish. The advisory is to eat no more than one meal per year of these fish including small bluefish. For large bluefish (larger than 6 lbs. or 24 inches) the advisory is "do not eat". Women of childbearing age and children should not consume any of these fish from these waters.

Establishing consistent advisories in shared waters is also a key goal of the Delaware Estuary Program's Management Plan. In December 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established an environmental plan to reduce polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) released along an 85-mile segment of the Delaware River from Trenton downstream to the head of the Delaware Bay, near Liston Point, Delaware.

The advisories are based on contaminants found in fish including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, chlorinated pesticides and dioxin. Long-term exposure to PCBs has been shown to cause a number of serious health effects, including impacts on the nervous system of developing fetuses, the immune system and the reproductive system. PCBs are also considered a probable human carcinogen.

Above certain levels, mercury can damage the nervous system, particularly in unborn and young children, resulting in learning and developmental delays. Dioxin produces a number of effects in animal testing, including suppression of the immune system, impaired reproduction, birth defects in some species tested, a skin condition called chloracne, alterations in liver function, and cancer.

The best way to reduce exposure to contaminants in fish is to learn what fish species are affected and either limit or avoid consumption. However, if you choose to eat those species under advisories, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure. Contaminants tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue of the fish you catch. Proper cleaning and cooking techniques, which remove some of the fat from the fish, can significantly reduce levels of PCBs, dioxins and other organic chemicals. Please note, however, that these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from these fish.

Delaware and New Jersey plan to continue coordination, communication and data sharing to ensure consistent advice is available to the public. The DEP and the DHSS through the interagency Toxics in Biota Committee continue to work with other adjacent states to develop messages for the public and to establish advisory consistency for affected fish in shared waters.

In addition to the updated Delaware Estuary fish consumption advisories, the DEP last year issued revised PCB advisories, and in 2002 issued advisories warning people about unsafe mercury levels found in 21 species of freshwater fish from water bodies around the state.

Copies of the advisories that provide consumption recommendations for fish in particular regions and waterways throughout the state are available on the DEP website.

Delaware's advisories are available on the DNREC website.



Related Links


New Jersey and Delaware Fish Consumption Advisories for Shared Waters of the Delaware Estuary/Delaware Bay

DE/NJ/PA Border to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal All Finfish Do not eat PCBs, Dioxin, Chlorinated Pesticides, Mercury
Chesapeake & Delaware Canal to the Mouth of the Delaware Bay Bluefish

Do not eat fish larger than 6 lbs or 24 inches

No more than 1 meal per year for fish less than 6 lbs or less than 24 inches*

PCBs, Mercury
  Striped Bass
White Perch
American Eel
Channel Catfish
White Catfish
No more than 1 meal per year* PCBs, Mercury
*   Women of childbearing age and children should not consume any amounts of these fish.
**   Proper trimming and cooking of fish can reduce but not eliminate the risk associated with PCBs, dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides. Trimming and cooking does not reduce the risk associated with mercury.


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