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National Listing of Fish Advisories: General Fact Sheet: 2005/06 National Listing

Fact Sheet; July 2007

Since 1993, EPA has made the National Listing of Fish Advisories (NLFA) available on the Internet to let people know about locally-issued fish advisories and safe eating guidelines. States, territories, and tribes (called "states") provide this information to EPA every year.

Until 2004, we published a summary of the most current information in the NLFA every year. In 2005, EPA decided to do this every two years because changes from year to year had been very small. This summary describes both 2005 and 2006 data.

In addition to providing a central point where people can find data about fish advisories, EPA produces materials to help people understand the risks of eating contaminated fish and the benefits of eating fish as part of a healthy diet. You can download or order these materials from our web site.


Basic Information about Fish Advisories in the U.S.

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States issue fish consumption advisories to protect people from the risks of eating contaminated fish caught in local waters. A consumption advisory may recommend limiting the amount or avoiding eating certain fish from specific waters or from specific water types (like "all lakes"). States may issue an advisory for everyone or for groups like pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. In recent years, states use statewide advisories to warn about risks from widespread contamination. In our summaries, they count as one advisory. In contrast, states also issue safe eating guidelines to let people know that fish from specific waterbodies are safe to eat.

Differences in the way states monitor, make decisions, and communicate to citizens make it hard to do comparisons or establish national trends. But EPA can summarize the information.

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National Listing of Fish Advisories Web Site

The National Listing of Fish Advisories web site offers details on the advisories issued. For each advisory, you'll find specific information about the species, location, contaminants, and consumption recommendations. When you visit the web site, you can get detailed local information and maps. You can also find out how to reach your state's contact.

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2005 and 2006 National Listing

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Each statewide advisory counts as one advisory in our totals, so looking at the number of advisories may be a little misleading. That's why we also use total lake acres and total river miles subject to advisories to get a sense of their extent across the country.

For 2006, the NLFA showed that states issued 533 new fish advisories. The 2006 total of 3,851 advisories covers 38% of the Nation's total lake acreage and 26% of the nation's total river miles, a small change in the area under advisory across the country. To get details on the waters under advisory, you can read the technical fact sheet.

Almost 65% of the U.S. coastline (except Alaska) is under advisory. That's 92% of the Atlantic coast and 100% of the Gulf coast. All of the Gulf coast advisories are for mercury. While no Pacific coast state has issued a statewide advisory for its coastal waters, Hawaii has a statewide advisory for mercury in several marine species.

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Safe Eating Guidelines

Safe eating guidelines let people know when there are no limits on eating fish from specific waters or certain fish species. While there were only 20 safe eating guidelines in effect in 1993, that number rose to 1,247 in 2006. Twenty-two states have issued safe eating guidelines. In 2006, 3% of river miles and 18% of lake acres in U.S. had safe eating guidelines for at least one fish species. We expect these guidelines to increase as states test more waters.

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Bioaccumulative Contaminants

Almost 90% of the 2006 advisories involved five bioaccumulative chemical contaminants: mercury, PCBs, chlordane, dioxins, and DDT. These contaminants accu¬mulate in tissue at concentrations many times higher in the water. They can stay in sediments for years, where bottom-dwelling creatures eat them and pass them to larger fish. Because tissue concentrations can increase at each level of the food chain, top predators (like largemouth bass or walleye) may have a million times greater the concentrations in the water.

The number of advisories for mercury increased from 2,436 in 2004 to 3,080 in 2006. Most states have issued mercury advisories, and 80% of all advisories were based at least partly on mercury. Today 35 states have statewide advisories for mercury.

Between 2004 and 2006, advisories for PCBs increased from 873 to 1,023. Four states have statewide freshwater advisories for PCBs, and seven other states have PCB advisories for their coastal waters.

Even though this pesticide was banned in the U.S. 1988, there have been a few more chlordane advisories issued from 101 (2005) to 105 (2006).

Dioxin advisories rose from 106 in 2004 to 125 in 2006. The area covered by dioxin advisories is extremely small, in part because of the high cost of analysis. Also, dioxins have been associated primarily with locations near specific facilities.

Although the use of DDT has been banned since 1975, the number of DDT advisories rose from 67 in 2004 to 84 in 2006. The majority of new DDT advisories were issued by Delaware and Texas.

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National Advice Concerning Mercury in Fish

In 2004, EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued advice for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children. You can learn more about this advisory here.

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For More Information

For more information on specific advisories within a state, contact the appropriate state agency. For more information on how to reduce exposure, consult EPA's brochure What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish, available in several languages. You can also send an e-mail to Erica Fleisig (fleisig.erica@epa.gov) to learn more about the National Listing of Fish Advisories.


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