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Missouri Kicks Off Fishing Season With 25th Annual Fish Advisory

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Missouri health officials kicked off fishing season this week by publishing the 25th annual guide to the safest way to handle and eat fish caught in Missouri waters.

The Fish Consumption Advisory is packed with tips on the best ways to safely clean, cook and consume locally caught fish. It offers information about the benefits of eating fish as part of a healthy diet. And it warns anglers about recommended limits on eating fish caught in certain Missouri streams.

 The advisory also provides information about the potential health effects of key contaminants and recommends ways to handle fish to reduce contaminants prior to consumption.

A significant change in the new edition is the removal of an advisory for the Middle Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County. In the past, lead was a concern in smallmouth bass in this area, but several years of fish sampling results have shown that these fish can be safely eaten. 

This year’s edition also contains new cautions about fish preparation methods that should be avoided. Canning, pickling or grinding fish may increase the amount of lead ingested from bony fish caught in historic lead-mining regions of the state.

The full 2010 advisory, published by the Missouri Department of Health Senior Services, can be viewed on the department’s Web site at www.dhss.mo.gov/fishadvisory/. 

 The advisory also contains advice about the health benefits of eating fish. Fish is a good source of high-quality protein and essential nutrients and is low in cholesterol. Some types of fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the development of the nervous system. Research has shown that Omega-3 acids also help reduce heart disease and offer other health benefits.

All fish contain small amounts of chemical contaminants, but the health benefits of eating fish in most cases outweigh the risks from contaminants, health officials say. However, there are occasions when fish consumption should be limited or eliminated altogether.

Chemicals commonly found in fish may affect children and developing fetuses differently than adults. Many of the recommended limits are especially important for children younger than 13 years old and women of childbearing age, especially those who are pregnant or nursing.

Because of elevated mercury levels in certain fish, the advisory recommends that pre-teens and women of child-bearing age eat no more than one fish meal per month of certain types of fish.  This recommendation applies to walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass longer than 12 inches caught anywhere in the state.

The advisory also suggests ways to reduce exposure to lead in fishing tackle. Anglers are advised not to place tackle in their mouths, to wash their hands before eating or drinking and to consider using fishing tackle made of alternative materials, such as tin, bismuth and tungsten.

State health officials will continue to monitor fish tissue for contaminants to ensure that Missourians can enjoy the state’s fishing resources and obtain the health benefits of eating fish.


A summary of the 2010 advisory is below, including advice on limiting consumption of specific fish and of fish taken from certain streams. The amount of fish considered a meal is 11 ounces for adults and three ounces for children.

Advisory Group:  Sensitive Populations
Key Contaminant:  Mercury

The health department advises consumers to be aware of the potential for adverse effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems from mercury in fish. Because of the potential risk mercury poses to the developing nervous system of fetuses and young children, the department recommends limits on fish consumption for children younger than 13 years, nursing mothers and women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. More information can be found at www.epa.gov/mercury/effects.htm. The statewide mercury advisory for all bodies of water in Missouri is as follows:

Sensitive populations are advised to eat no more than:
·         One meal per month:  walleye, largemouth bass, spotted bass, and smallmouth bass greater than 12 inches in length.
·         One meal per week:  all other sport fish. In the absence of local advisories, consumers are advised to restrict fish consumption of locally caught fish to one meal per week because all fish have various levels of mercury.

 For more information, go to: www.epa.gov/waterscience/fishadvice/1-meal-per-week.pdf.

 For sensitive populations, the following specific water bodies have limited-consumption advisories due to mercury:

·         Clearwater Lake (Reynolds County) – 
o   One meal per month:  white bass greater than 15 inches in length.

 NOTE:  The EPA and Food and Drug Administration’s consumer advisory for mercury in commercial fish recommends that women who are pregnant, women of childbearing age who might become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children not eat any shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. This group can safely consume up to 12 ounces a week of shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock or catfish.  For more information, go to: www.epa.gov/waterscience/fishadvice/advice.html or www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/MethylmercuryBrochure.pdf.

Advisory Group:  All Consumers
Key Contaminants:  PCBs and chlordane

 While the amount of contaminants in fish tissue have declined, PCBs and chlordane remain at levels of health concern for certain bodies of water. Health department officials recommend limited consumption of specified fish for all consumers from the following locations for the reasons stated:

·         Missouri and Mississippi rivers –
o   One meal per month:  shovelnose sturgeon fish tissue (excluding eggs) due to PCBs and chlordane.
o   Do not eat:  sturgeon eggs due to PCBs and chlordane.
o   One meal per week:  flathead, channel, and blue catfish greater than 17 inches due to PCBs, chlordane, and mercury.
o   One meal per week:  carp species greater than 21 inches due to PCBs, chlordane and mercury.

·         Blue River (from Minor Park to the Missouri River in Jackson County)--
o   One meal per month:  carp species and channel catfish of all sizes due to chlordane and PCBs.

·         Turkey Creek (near Highway “P” in Jasper County)--
o   One meal per week:  buffalo species greater than 21 inches due to PCBs and chlordane.

·         Simpson Park Lake (St. Louis County)--
o   One meal per month:  buffalo species greater than 16 inches due to chlordane, mercury and PCBs.

Advisory Group:  All Consumers
Key Contaminant:  Lead

DHSS recommends that all consumers limit consumption of specified fish for the following locations for the reasons stated:

·         Big River (St. Francois and Jefferson counties) and Flat River (St. Francois County from Highway B to six miles downstream to where it enters Big River) –
o   Do not eat:  carp, sunfish, redhorse, or other suckers due to lead.

·         Big Creek (Iron County near the town of Glover) –
o   Do not eat:  sunfish due to lead.