Fish consumption advisories help Virginia anglers make educated choices about eating the fish they catch. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will issue a fish consumption advisory when the amount of contaminants detected in fish exceeds levels of concern. While most Virginia waters do not have dangerous levels of contaminants, some fish in certain waters are found to contain contaminants at levels of concern. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) routinely monitors contaminant levels in fish species, and provides fish tissue sample results to VDH for analysis. Advisories do not imply that fish are unsafe to eat, but provide guidance to the public to make informed choices about eating locally caught fish.
CONTAMINANTS IN FISH
CURRENT FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORIES
A fish consumption advisory is not a prohibition of eating fish, but a warning about the contaminants present in a fish species. Each advisory specifies the location of contamination within the waterbody, all affected localities, the contaminants present, the species of fish involved, and meal recommendations on eating certain fish species caught from specified waterbodies. The meal recommendations presented in the fish advisory tables were developed to protect the general public from adverse health effects from exposure to fish contaminants. It is recommended to follow the guidance presented on advisories to reduce your total exposure to fish contaminants. Yearly fish tissue sampling and analysis is not required since mercury and PCBs are contaminants that remain in fish for long periods of time.
*High-risk individuals such as women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children are advised not to eat any fish contaminated either with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or mercury from the respective advisory areas.
Chesapeake Bay and Small Coastal Basin (includes Great Wicomico, Piankatank, Poquoson, Lynnhaven, Pocomoke Rivers; Dragon Run Swamp; and Mobjack Bay)
Chowan and Dismal Swamp River Basin (includes Nottoway, Meherrin, and Blackwater Rivers; Lake Drummond)
James River Basin (includes Maury, Jackson, Slate, Rivanna, Tye, Rockfish, Willis, Appomattox, Chickahominy, Pagan, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers)
New River Basin (includes Little and Bluestone Rivers; Walker, Peak, and Reed Creeks; Claytor Lake)
Potomac River Basin (includes Occoquan River)
Rappahannock River Basin (includes Hazel, Thornton, Rapidan, Robinson, and Corrotoman Rivers; and Mountain Run)
Roanoke and Yadkin River Basin (includes Little Otter, Big Otter, Pigg, Dan, Smith, and Banister Rivers; Smith Mountain, Leesville Lakes; Lake Gaston; Kerr Reservoir; and Lovills Creek Lake)
Shenandoah River Basin (includes South, North, South Fork Shenandoah, and North Fork Shenandoah Rivers)
Tennessee and Big Sandy River Basin (includes Holston, Clinch, Powell, and Guest Rivers; Levisa, Russell, and Tug Forks)
York River Basin (includes Pamunkey, Mattaponi, North Anna, South Anna, Little, Matta, Po, and Ni Rivers)
HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING FISH
Fish provide substantial human health benefits. They are low in saturated fat, high in protein, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish contain vitamin D, calcium, iron, magnesium, as well as other nutrients that are beneficial for human health. Fish consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. Fish consumption may also contribute to immune system strengthening, healthy brain functioning, and proper infant growth and development. To achieve the health benefits of eating fish, it is advised to eat a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury such as salmon, tilapia, shrimp, oysters, scallops, and sardines.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COOKING AND PREPARING FISH
You can reduce the fat and contaminants (e.g. pesticides, PCBs) in the fish you eat. To reduce the potential harmful effects from eating contaminated fish, VDH recommends the following:
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
For questions about human health risks from exposure to fish contaminants, please contact the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) at (804) 864-8182. For general questions about fishing regulations in Virginia, please call Game and Inland Fisheries at (804) 367-1000, or visit their webpage by clicking here. For further information regarding the fish tissue sampling and analysis process, please contact the Department of Environmental Quality at (804) 698-4113, or visit their webpage by clicking here.
Virginia Department of Health | Office of Epidemiology | Division of Public Health Toxicology | 109 Governor Street | Richmond, Virginia 23219 | Phone: (804)864-8182 | Fax: (804)864-8190