Results of Tests of Hatchery Trout Released : PA

Article Posted: March 10, 2000

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Results of Tests of Hatchery Trout Released

HARRISBURG (March 3) - State officials responsible for monitoring Pennsylvania's waterways and protecting public health today announced no consumption advisory is appropriate for state hatchery trout from seven Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) hatcheries. Fish consumption advisories for two PFBC hatcheries remain in effect.

"No consumption advisories because of polychlorinated biphenyls(PCB)levels are appropriate for 70 percent of the PFBC hatchery trout," Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary James M. Seif said. "The consumption advisory issued last fall for state hatchery trout remains in effect at the one meal per-month level for trout stocked from the Huntsdale hatchery and at the one meal per week level for trout stocked from the Big Spring hatchery."

A listing of waters stocked from Huntsdale and Big Spring Fish Culture Stations is available on the Fish and Boat Commission's website.

"After the concern over PCB levels in hatchery trout last season, extensive testing was done to make sure that the fish are safe to eat before the trout are stocked," Seif said. "The testing shows that no advisory is warranted for seven hatcheries and that fish from the remaining two hatcheries are safe if eaten in moderation. We will continue to work with PFBC to find the source of the PCBs at the Huntsdale and Big Springs hatcheries."

"PFBC stocked trout are safe to catch, handle and eat in moderation," Department of Health Secretary Robert Zimmerman said. "Eating fish regularly can improve your overall health, but women of childbearing age, pregnant women, children and people who eat large quantities of trout stocked from state hatcheries over a long period of time should follow this consumption advice to reduce any potential risks."

The advice is equally protective for larger people who eat larger meals and smaller people who eat smaller meals. People who regularly eat sport fish, women of childbearing age and children are most susceptible to contaminants that build up in fish over time. Those people should space fish meals out according to the advisory. Spacing meals helps prevent contaminants from building to harmful levels in the body.

Women beyond childbearing years and men face fewer health risks from contaminants, but also should follow the advisory.

When properly prepared, fish provide a diet high in protein and low in saturated fats. Many doctors suggest that eating a half-pound of fish each week is helpful in preventing heart disease. People can get the health benefits of eating fish and reduce their exposure to PCBs and other organic contaminants by properly cleaning and cooking the fish.

Anglers should properly clean, skin and trim any fish they catch to reduce their exposure to contaminants. When preparing fish, remove the skin before cooking. Trim fat away and broil or grill the fish to allow any fat to drip away. Juices and fats that cook out of the fish should not be eaten or reused for cooking other foods.

"The results of the tests of our spring-stocked trout generally were somewhat encouraging," PFBC Executive Director Peter A. Colangelo said. "We want to assure all trout anglers that fishing is a wonderful and safe outdoor activity and that state-stocked trout are safe.

"Our approach to this issue has been one of caution," Colangelo said. "The three agencies believe it is prudent to keep a consumption advisory statement in effect for trout stocked from Huntsdale and Big Springs hatcheries."

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the departments of Health and Environmental Protection are continuing efforts to identify possible sources of low levels of PCBs at the Huntsdale Fish Culture Station. Extensive tests last spring and summer failed to identify a source of PCBs in the water supply, but because Huntsdale trout continue to show somewhat above-average PCB levels, additional tests are underway. A pending improvement project at Big Spring will also investigate possible sources of PCBs.

The agencies also are working with the Penn State Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit on a comprehensive study concerning low-levels of PCBs in hatchery and other fish.

Meal advisories are based on a protocol developed by the Great Lakes states to address contamination by PCBs in Great Lakes fish. Specific meal advice is given, advising what amount of a particular kind of fish can safely be eaten, and places the fish under one of the following categories: no restriction; one meal per week; one meal per month; one meal every two months or do not eat. One meal is considered to be one-half pound of fish for a 150-pound person.

None of the trout from any of the PFBC hatcheries showed levels of PCBs that would warrant a "Do Not Eat" notice. Both the Great Lakes protocols and federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tolerance levels for PCBs use a tolerance level of 2 parts per million of PCBs as the "Do Not Eat" level. The FDA tolerance level is used to regulate chemicals in the nation's food supply of fish.

PCBs are a group of chemicals used prior to the 1970s in a variety of industrial and electrical products such as capacitors, transformers, turbines, hydraulic fluids, lubricants, etc. PCBs are very persistent, and even though their manufacture was discontinued more than 20 years ago, trace levels of PCBs remain in the environment. In fish, PCBs concentrate in fatty tissues.

For more information on fish consumption advisories, contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at (814) 359-5147, DEP at (717) 787-9637 and the state Department of Health at (717) 787-1708. More information is also available by visiting the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Website or at the Department of Environmental Protection's Website.

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