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July 10, 2012

New search feature debuts with updated 2012 fish consumption advice

MADISON - It's now easier than ever for anglers fishing Wisconsin waters to make sure their catch is safe to eat: Wisconsin's updated fish consumption advice for 2012 is available online and features a new search tool that delivers anglers simplified consumption advice for fish from specific waters to limit exposure to environmental contaminants that may be in the fish.

"Fish are a part of a healthy diet and fun to catch. Fishing gets us outdoors. We wanted to make it easier for anglers to get the right advice quickly and without having to look at different charts in our booklet," says Candy Schrank, the Department of Natural Resources toxicologist who coordinates fish consumption advice. "We hope people will use the query tool frequently to check advice for eating fish from their favorite fishing spot."

The new query tool can be found by going to the DNR website and searching for "Eat Your Catch." Development of this tool was supported by the Department of Health Services' Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant. The grant also supported creation of Hmong and Spanish versions of a two-minute video about Wisconsin's fish consumption advice.

"Many people get information differently today than they did in the past," says Dr. Henry Anderson, Wisconsin's State Health Officer. "This grant will help us improve how we get advisory information to the people who need it in more effective ways and allow more people to choose safer species and sizes of fish and select places with lower contaminants."

DNR, in consultation with the Department of Health Services, examines new data, along with data from recent years to re-evaluate the fish consumption advice every year and issue an updated copy of Choose Wisely: A Health Guide for Eating Fish in Wisconsin" [PDF] [PUB-FH-824]. Printed copies will be available at DNR service centers and regional offices next week.

Wisconsin has one set of consumption guidelines covering all inland waters that recommends that women of childbearing age and children 15 and under limit their meals of panfish to one per week and game fish to one per month (with the exception of musky, which they should not eat). Men and older women are advised to limit their game fish meals to one per week with the exception of musky, which they should eat no more than once a month.

Recommendations to eat less of some species of fish apply to 155 waters because fish from those waters have been found to have higher levels of mercury or PCBs, Schrank says.

As in past years, the changes in recommended consumption are based on data collected by DNR and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Major changes this year include relaxing advice for Pools 7 and 8 of the Mississippi River due to declines in PCB levels in fish. The statewide general advice can be followed for fish caught in those pools.

Three lakes require more stringent advice: Moquah/Spider Lake in Ashland County and the Lower Park Falls Flowage in Price County due to higher levels of mercury in some species of fish. And yellow perch larger than 11 inches from Lake Michigan should be eaten only once per month compared to the previous advice of once per week.

Minor changes to advice were made for other species from several waters including Lake Michigan, the upper Menominee River, several northern lakes (English in Ashland County; Bearskull, Six, and North Bass in Iron County; Somo in Lincoln County; Musser in Price County; and Black Lake in Sawyer County), and Pools 9 to 12 of the Mississippi River.

No changes were made for other rivers including sections of the lower Fox, Kewaunee, Branch, St Croix Rivers and Pools 4 to 6 of the Mississippi River. Advice also remains the same for many locations including the Sheboygan River below Sheboygan Falls Dam where the advice is to not eat any of the resident fish (trout and salmon that migrate up the river from Lake Michigan fall under the Lake Michigan advice) and where sediment remediation is underway.

Male anglers 50 and over sought for online survey

More male anglers age 50 and older are needed to complete an online survey on fish eating and how best to reach this group that tends to eat more fish than others. A link to the survey can be found on the fish consumption page of the DNR website or at the University of Wisconsin's Wisconsin angler study (exit DNR) website.

Wisconsin research has shown that older men have higher mercury and PCB levels than any other group, a concern because some studies have linked higher mercury levels to heart disease in older men and higher PCB levels are associated with higher risk of cancer and immune system problems.

"We've gotten a good response so far to our online survey, but we need more anglers to weigh in," says Dr. Anderson. "We want to know if older anglers are aware of and follow fish consumption recommendations, how they decide where to fish and what fish to eat, and where they get their information about eating fish."

Such information can help DHS and the Department of Natural Resources advise people on how to enjoy the health benefits of eating their catch while reducing their exposure to environmental contaminants in the fish.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Candy Schrank (608) 267-7614; Dr. Henry Anderson (608) 266-1253

Last Revised: Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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