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Hunting and Fishing During Harmful Algal Blooms

Can I Eat Fish from Waters Experiencing a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)?

Toxins can accumulate in fish in waters experiencing a HAB. The highest concentrations are in the organs, particularly the liver, and fat deposits. Muscle tissue typically has lower toxin levels. Fish taken from waters with intermittent blooms are unlikely to have toxin levels in muscle that present a health concern. However, there remains considerable uncertainty about the health effects of fish consumption.

Utah Department of Health and Human Services and Utah Department of Environmental Quality recommend carefully cleaning and thoroughly cooking fish harvested from waters where cyanobacteria are present. This includes discarding the guts and skin, eating only the filets, and rinsing the meat in clean water before cooking.

The Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) may choose to make it illegal to fish in certain areas if potential health impacts from fishing and consuming fish from the waterbody warrant closure.

What Should I Know About Hunting Waterfowl in Utah Lakes and Reservoirs with Harmful Algae?

Each year on October 31, the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) ends HABs monitoring for the season. However, HABs can persist throughout the fall and winter, posing a threat to waterfowl hunters and their dogs.

Harmful algal blooms and harmful algae mats (benthic mats) may occur in standing water, flowing water, and wetlands. In wetland areas, such as those surrounding Farmington Bay, Ogden Bay, Willard Spur, or Utah Lake, harmful algae may be present in some areas and absent in others. The best way to keep safe while still enjoying waterbody access is to know what to look for and check before entering the water. Filamentous green algae and duckweed also grow in these environments and are often mistaken for harmful algae — learn how to tell the difference.

If harmful algae is present, hunters are advised to avoid contact with water or scum. Hunters should clean waterfowl well and discard all guts. If hunters suspect a bloom, they should also keep their dogs away from the water, as the toxins from HABs can be fatal in pets. Dogs can be exposed to toxins by skin contact with water contaminated with cyanobacteria or toxins, when swallowing water, by eating harmful algae mats, or by licking the water off their fur. If hunters believe their pet has been exposed, they should seek immediate care from their veterinarian. Prevention is the best way to protect pets.

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