Delaware issues new fish consumption advisory

DOVER — The state announced Tuesday it has updated its fish consumption advisory, which recommends how many fish one can safely eat per year.

According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Health and Social Services, chemical contaminants are decreasing, indicating the state’s waterways are becoming cleaner.

The update continues a trend manifested in 2016, when the advisory reported some of the largest declines in fish tissue contaminants since the state began measuring them in 1986. Among the waterways impacted by the new recommendations are the tidal Delaware River, the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay, Atlantic Coastal waters, Waples Pond, Prime Hook Creek and Slaughter Creek.

“The improved water quality allowing people to eat more fish caught in local waterways is good news across the board,” DHSS Secretary Kara Odom Walker said in a statement. “Consuming fish is an essential part of a healthy diet because fish contain so many key nutrients, are low in saturated fat and contain omega-3 fatty acids. The updated advisories will help Delawareans make good decisions for themselves and their families about the right kinds of fish to eat from our state’s waterways, as well as the right amount.”

Individuals are still urged to eat no more than 8 ounces of any fish caught in Delaware waters per week. For children, the maximum is 3 ounces.

In some cases — bluefish larger than 20 inches, as well as all finfish, striped bass, channel catfish, white catfish and American eel — women of childbearing age and children under 6 should not eat any. They also are urged to avoid anything caught in the Delaware River between the Delaware/New Jersey/Pennsylvania border and the northeast extent of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

Blue claw crabs are safe for all, although the state recommends individuals avoid the “mustard” in the body cavity of the blue crab, as it has a high fat content, meaning it is more likely to accumulate certain contaminants.

Many of the toxins and impurities found in fish are, according to DNREC, “legacy pollutants,” or chemicals discharged into bodies of water in large quantities in the past. These chemicals include, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and DDT.

The decrease in PCBs is the result of new techniques and methods, such as adding activated carbon into water to bind contaminants and limit their transfer to the water.

“Seeing the positive results of regional efforts to restore water quality and the health of Delaware’s aquatic resources is very exciting and encouraging,” DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement.

“I anticipate that, with continued cleanup efforts and cooperation between DNREC, DHSS and our regional partners who include New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission, that we will continue to see a trend of improvement into the future.”

A chart showing how many fish are safe to eat based on species and location is available at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/Documents/2018-Delaware-Fish-Consumption-Advisory-Table.pdf.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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