The Sierra Fund (TSF) is excited to release a new video to help anglers read and interpret the complex and multi-faceted information contained in state-issued fish consumption advisories. The advisories are issued by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and offer safe eating guidelines for locally caught fish based on the level of chemicals in fish, including mercury.
OEHHA fish consumption advisories contain three important components: 1) species of fish, 2) population group and 3) frequency of consumption.
Species of fish
Longer-lived, predatory fish like bass typically contain higher levels of mercury, while fish that eat lower on the food web, like rainbow trout, commonly contain less mercury.
Women of childbearing age and children cannot safely eat as much fish as older women and men. Mercury is a developmental neurotoxin, meaning that its impacts are most significant on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and especially fetuses. Mercury can pass through the placental barrier, so it is critical that pregnant women choose low mercury options like rainbow trout.
Frequency of consumption
The number of servings that can safely be eaten per week is based on the two elements above: who is eating what species of fish. Many OEHHA fish advisories warn sensitive populations (women 18-45 and children 1-17) to completely avoid high-mercury species (such as bass). Additional at-risk populations include groups that consume fish at higher rates than the general population, such as for cultural or subsistence purposes.
We hope this video will help anglers better understand OEHHA fish consumption advisories in order to make safe and healthy choices when eating locally caught fish. Thank you to Nevada County Digital Media (NCTV) for helping to produce the video!
Eating contaminated fish is the primary human exposure pathway to mercury. While OEHHA issues fish consumption advisories outlining safe eating guidelines, no agency is mandated to post this information at the places where people fish. Since 2015, TSF has stepped in to fill this gap regionally by organizing an annual volunteer event to post OEHHA fish advisories at more than 20 lakes and reservoirs. For this effort to make a real impact, the public must be able to understand the information contained in OEHHA fish consumption advisories, which provide the tools to make healthy fish consumption choices.