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Frequently Asked Questions: Utah Fish Advisories

Why should I eat fish?

Eat Fish, Choose Wisely. Fish is an excellent low-fat food and a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and oils that are hard to get from other types of food. Eating fish can help children develop properly and even boost the health of adults. In fact, eating fish regularly can reduce your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. To get all the benefits from fish, experts say that you eat at least two meals of fish each week.

What is an advisory?

Fish consumption advisories help you fish smart! Fish advisories give you information to help you decide where to fish, which fish to keep, and how much fish to eat. An advisory will list a lake, stream, or river and will list the types of fish that are unsafe in that area.

Many lakes, streams, and rivers in Utah do not have advisories. Not all types of fish are unsafe where there is an advisory. Only limit the fish that are listed on the advisory.

Remember that fishing smart also means fishing legally. You will need a valid Utah fishing license in order to fish in all public lakes, rivers, and streams. Visit the Utah Department of Natural Resources to find out where to buy a license or to order one online.

Why do we have advisories?

To make sure that the fish you catch are safe to eat, Utah Department of Environmental Quality tests fish from lakes, rivers, and streams all over Utah. All samples are tested for chemicals and metals to see if any of the fish are contaminated.

The Utah Department of Health looks closely at the data and then issues fish consumption advisories where contaminated fish have been found. The health effects from consuming fish are only in the fish.  This means you can still enjoy water activities like boating, skiing, swimming, and even recreational fishing.

Why are some fish not safe?

Harmful materials can get into our environment in many ways. These materials end up in lakes, rivers, and streams where they can contaminate plants and animals, like fish, that live in the water. Contaminants get into fish through the plants and animals that they eat. Some of these chemicals remain in the body of the fish. Older and larger fish have eaten more and been in the water longer, so there may be more contaminants in their bodies. When you eat these fish, the contaminants get into your body, too.

Your body naturally removes small amounts of these contaminants. Health problems may happen when there are too many harmful chemicals in the body. Babies and children are more at risk because their bodies are still developing. Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are nursing should be very careful about the fish that they eat. These women should check the fish advisory for fish consumption limits. Heavy metals are the main contaminants in Utah. Additional information on contaminants can be found at Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

How can I find more information on the health risks of a particular contaminant?

Please visit our Health Risks: By Contaminants page.

How can I reduce the health risks from contaminated fish?

You can reduce the health risks from eating any type of fish by following these tips:

  • Do not eat more than the amount of fish recommended by the fish consumption advisories.
  • Eat fish from lakes and rivers that do not have advisories.
  • Eat smaller fish and smaller amounts of fish.
  • Eat different types of fish instead of just one type.
  • Enjoy fishing by catching then releasing the fish instead of eating them.

Remember: You cannot remove mercury or arsenic by any special cleaning or cooking methods. This is because mercury and arsenic are stored in the meat of the fish and not the in the fat or skin.

How much is one meal of fish?

One meal for an adult is a half-pound or 8 ounces of fish. This is the weight of the fish BEFORE you cook it. Eight ounces of raw fish is about the size of two decks of playing cards.

  • One meal for a child is 4 ounces of fish. Four ounces of raw fish is about the size of one deck of playing cards.

What about fish that I buy instead of catch?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a national mercury advisory for fish that you buy or catch. This includes fresh, frozen, and canned fish that you buy in a store or restaurant.

The advisory, issued in March 2004, says that women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are nursing, and children under 14 should not eat any king mackerel, shark, swordfish or tilefish. Information on this advisory can be found on FDA‘s Web site or EPA’s Web site. You can also call FDA, toll-free, at (888) SAFEFOOD for more information.

What can I get information about Waterfowl Consumption Advisories in Utah?

Please visit the Waterfowl Consumption Advisory Web site.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on fish consumption advisories, or to request a copy of the advisories of other material, call Utah Department of Health at (801) 538-6191. For more information on fishing and Utah’s Rules and Regulations for fishing and boating, visit Utah Department of Natural Resources. For more informationon Mercury and other chemicals effects on the Environment and you, visit Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Where are fish advisories in Utah?

Please visit the Consumption Advisory page.

Who is my local Health Department?

Please visit the Utah Health Department Web site to locate your local Health Department.

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