MI: State’s ‘fish advisory’ changes in new update

Lansing – The 2011-12 Michigan Fish Advisory changes several
fish consumption guidelines for waterways across the state,
including the recommendation not to eat any fish from Lake St.
Clair’s Lange and Revere canals or any legally caught lake trout
from Lake Michigan.

Michigan Department of Community Health toxicologist Kory Groetsch
said tests conducted at dozens of locations during the past year
resulted in two relaxed advisories and seven expanded advisories
for a variety of fish from Lake St. Clair to the Upper Peninsula’s
Escanaba River.

The majority of the advisories, available on the MDCH website,
include relatively minor changes with the exception of the Lange
and Revere canals in St. Clair Shores, where the toxic chemical
known as PCB was detected well above recommended levels for
consumption. The department now advises against eating any fish
from the waterways.

“St. Clair Shores was the most eye-catching as far as the level of
PCBs we’re finding in those fillets,” Groetsch said. “They are the
highest numbers we’ve ever seen in a fillet for PCBs in
Michigan.”

The contamination in the canals – a horseshoe-shaped recreational
waterway that connects to Lake St. Clair – is under investigation
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the PCBs are
believed to be coming from storm sewers. The exact cause of the
contamination is unknown, Groetsch said.

The advisory is an annual report on numerous water bodies and fish
species with specific consumption recommendations for two groups of
people: males over 15 years old and women over 45; and children
under 15 and women of child-bearing age.

Young children and fetuses are more prone to the negative health
effects of mercury, dioxins, and PCBs and other toxins found in
some types of fish. Regularly consuming fish with elevated levels
of these toxic chemicals can cause liver damage, cancer, birth
defects, and other serious medical issues.

The MDCH modified its advisory for Lake Michigan and now recommends
against eating lake trout over 18 inches because of concentrations
of dioxin-like chemicals, PCBs, and chlordane found in larger fish.
The new advisory decreases the size of trout recommended for
consumption by several inches. The minimal harvest limit set by the
DNR is 20 inches, meaning the MDCH recommends against consuming any
legally caught lake trout from Lake Michigan.

Jay Wesley, acting Lake Michigan basin coordinator for the DNR,
said the new advisory isn’t a result of higher contaminant levels;
rather, the recommendation was changed because of new technology
and methodology used in the MDCH analysis. Evidence actually
suggests that PCB levels in the lake are improving.

“I think we still want to maintain sustainable ecosystems in the
Great Lakes, so bringing back a native species like lake trout is
still important,” Wesley said of the DNR’s extensive efforts to
revive lake trout populations. “One thing I did notice is PCB
levels in Lake Michigan are on a decreasing trend, so that’s a good
sign.”

In Wisconsin, consumption of lake trout is still advisable with
certain restrictions, he said, which sends a conflicting
signal.

“Our other concern with this recent (MDCH) report is other states
are still using an old methodology, so their fish advisory doesn’t
match up with ours,” he said. “It would be nice to have a common
advisory so folks in Wisconsin are getting the same recommendation
as folks in Michigan.”

Changes to the fish advisory for the Lake Erie watershed include
recommendations against women and children consuming carp over 26
inches from Portage Lake more than once a month. For Washtenaw
County’s South Lake, the MDCH recommends against anyone eating
northern pike over 30 inches and limiting consumption of pike over
22 inches to once a month for women and children and once a week
for the general population.

In the Lake Michigan watershed, the MDCH now advises against
consuming lake trout over 22 inches from Leelanau County’s Glen
Lake, as well as advice against eating brook trout or white suckers
from the Escanaba River more than once per week.

The department lifted advisories this year for rock bass from the
Rifle River in Ogemaw County, and carp from Lake Orion in Oakland
County.

More information on consuming Michigan-caught fish, including a
link to the 2011-12 Michigan Fish Advisory, is available at
www.michigan.gov/eatsafefish.

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