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March 30, 2006

Contact: Karen Hershey (609) 984-1795
Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994


(06/21) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Senior Services today updated existing fish consumption advisories to take into consideration the health benefits associated with eating a variety of fish and shellfish. Although seafood contains high quality protein, some recreationally caught fish and crabs contain unsafe levels of dioxins, PCBs and mercury.

"These latest advisories strike a balance between the benefits and risks associated with eating locally caught fish and crabs," said DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson. "The fact remains that eating fish is smart and risk can be reduced if consumers follow the guidance in the advisories."

In addition to balancing health benefits and risk, these advisories will allow the public to better understand the recommendations and make informed choices. The advisories cover all marine and estuarine waters including Delaware Bay, and are consistent with the State of Delaware's recommendations.

"Consistent advice for shared waters is essential to public understanding," said John A. Hughes, Secretary of Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. "We are pleased to work with New Jersey to make sure the message for the shared waters of the Delaware Estuary is consistent and clear for all who enjoy the benefits of recreational fishing."

The updated advisories were prompted by the results of a DEP-commissioned study by the Academy of Natural Sciences. Results indicate that while PCB levels continue to decline in striped bass and bluefish caught in New Jersey's ocean waters, they still exceed advisory triggers. The results also confirm elevated dioxin levels in blue crabs taken from the Passaic River/Newark Bay area. The advisories contain new recommendations for weakfish, porgy, winter flounder and lobster taken from certain waters.

"Residents should always be cognizant that environmental contaminants can create health risks for people eating freshly caught seafood in New Jersey," said DHSS Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. "However, by following the guidelines in our advisories New Jerseyans can safely include fish and shellfish they've caught as a part of their healthy diet."

The best way to reduce exposure to contaminants in fish is to learn what fish species are affected and to 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. However, these techniques will not reduce or remove unsafe levels of mercury from fish.

For all freshwater fish not listed, consumers should follow DEP's General Freshwater Advisories, which recommend eating no more than one meal per week for the general population and no more than one meal a month for high-risk individuals. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, women planning to become pregnant, nursing mothers, infants and children.

The revised 2006 fish consumption advisories include statewide, regional and water body specific advice, and a general advisory for freshwater fish. The Academy of Natural Science data and the updated advisories can be found online at:




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Last Updated: March 30, 2006