Fish consumption update, advisory issued for Columbia River

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is issuing updated meal limit recommendations for consumption of sturgeon from the lower Columbia River, in addition to a new consumption advisory for lamprey
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DOH recommends limiting meals of sturgeon, lamprey due to levels of PCBs, mercury

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is issuing updated meal limit recommendations for consumption of sturgeon from the lower Columbia River, in addition to a new consumption advisory for lamprey from the Columbia River due to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury levels above Washington state’s health-based screening levels.

Consuming large amounts of fish contaminated with PCBs and mercury can cause negative health effects over time and can lead to potential learning and behavioral problems. People can pass PCBs to children during pregnancy and when nursing. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable to negative health effects from these contaminants.

Sturgeon consumption advisory update

The April 7, 2022 health advisory, which extends from the mouth of Columbia (A) upriver to the Bonneville Dam (B) [1], has been revised in accordance with updated findings from the Oregon Health Authority. The advisory recommends limiting consumption of sturgeon based on contaminant levels of PCBs in the fish tissue. Advisories and consumption limits are recommended when contaminants are above Washington state’s health-based screening values.

A meal of sturgeon is proportional to the size of the palm of the hand. Updated meal limit recommendations for sturgeon from the lower Columbia River are:

  • No more than 4 meals per month for pregnant or nursing people and children
  • No more than 6 meals per month for all other adults

Lamprey consumption advisory

DOH is also issuing an advisory for consumption of lamprey from the Columbia River due to PCBs and mercury levels taken from fish tissue data by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The data, in accordance with findings from the Oregon Health Authority, showed PCBs and mercury at levels of concern in lamprey for vulnerable populations (pregnant or nursing people and children), and elevated PCBs for all other adults.

A meal of lamprey is proportionate to the size of your palm. Meal limit recommendations for lamprey from the Columbia River are:

  • No more than 2 meals per month for pregnant or nursing people and children
  • No more than 4 meals per month for all other adults

While it is important to know the risks of consuming fish with high levels of contaminants, DOH does not recommend people stop eating all fish. A diet with a variety of fish sources has health benefits. Fish are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which provide heart disease protection and hold neurological benefits. Additionally, fishing and fish consumption can have social and cultural benefits to an individual’s overall wellbeing.

DOH will continue to evaluate and update the sturgeon and lamprey advisories as future data become available. Fishers can visit the WA DOH fish advisories webpage for information on the Columbia and other Washington state rivers.

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