Fish Advisory for Sacramento River Offers Safe Eating Advice for 18 Fish Species

Photo: Ken Lund

An updated state fish advisory for the Sacramento River and northern Delta in nine Northern California counties provides safe eating advice for 18 fish species.

The advisory covers the Sacramento River from just below Shasta Lake to where it joins the San Joaquin River in Pittsburg, and also applies to creeks, sloughs, and other water bodies in the northern Delta that are north of Highway 12. The area includes portions of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Shasta, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Tehama, and Yolo counties.

The new advisory supersedes previous advice for eating fish from the Sacramento River and northern Delta. It provides advice for the following species: American Shad, black bass species, bullhead, catfish, Chinook Salmon, Common Carp, crappie, crayfish, Goldfish, Hardhead, Rainbow Trout, Sacramento Pikeminnow, Sacramento Sucker, shrimp, small baitfish, Steelhead Trout, Striped Bass, sunfish species, and White Sturgeon.

The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) updated the recommendations based on the levels of mercury, PBDEs, and PCBs.

“Many fish have nutrients that may reduce the risk of heart disease and are excellent sources of protein,” said Dr. Lauren Zeise, director of OEHHA. “By following our guidelines for fish caught in Sacramento River and northern Delta, people can safely eat fish low in chemical contaminants and enjoy the well-known health benefits of fish consumption.”

When consuming fish from Sacramento River and northern Delta, women ages 18-49 and children ages 1-17 should not eat black bass species, catfish, Sacramento Pikeminnow, Striped Bass, or White Sturgeon. They may safely eat a maximum of five total servings per week of Rainbow Trout, or three total servings per week of American Shad or small baitfish and shrimp (including Bigscale Logperch, Crangon Shrimp, Golden Shiner, Inland Silverside, Mississippi Silverside, Mosquitofish, Red Shiner, Shimofuri Goby, Threadfin Shad, and Yellowfin Goby), or two total servings per week of bullhead, Chinook Salmon, or Steelhead Trout, or one total serving per week of Common Carp, crappie, crayfish, Goldfish, Hardhead, Sacramento Sucker, or sunfish species.

Women ages 50 and older and men ages 18 and older may safely eat a maximum of seven total servings per week of American Shad, Chinook Salmon, small baitfish and shrimp (as listed above), or Steelhead Trout, or five total servings per week of Rainbow Trout, or four total servings per week of bullhead or sunfish species, or two total servings per week of catfish, Common Carp, crappie, crayfish, Goldfish, Hardhead, Sacramento Sucker, or Striped Bass, or one total serving per week of black bass species, Sacramento Pikeminnow, or White Sturgeon.

One serving is an eight-ounce fish fillet, measured prior to cooking, which is roughly the size and thickness of your hand. Children should be given smaller servings. For small fish species, several individual fish may make up a single serving.

A poster with the safe-eating advice for the Sacramento River and northern Delta is available on OEHHA’s website in both English and Spanish.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that is released into the environment from mining and burning coal. It accumulates in fish in the form of methylmercury, which can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in developing children and fetuses. Because of this, OEHHA provides a separate set of recommendations specifically for children up to age 17, and women of childbearing age (18-49 years).

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are a class of flame retardants once used in household products such as furniture, textiles, automotive parts, and electronics. At high levels of exposure, they can interfere with the body’s natural hormones, cause harm to the developing fetus or infant, and increase cancer risk. 

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a group of industrial chemicals. At high levels of exposure, they can cause health problems, including cancer. Although they were banned in the United States in the late 1970s, PCBs persist in the environment from spills, leaks or improper disposal.

PCBs and PBDEs accumulate in the skin, fat, and some internal organs of fish. In order to reduce exposure from contaminated fish, OEHHA recommends eating only the skinless fillet (meat) portion of the fish.

Eating fish in amounts slightly greater than the advisory’s recommendations based on mercury, PBDE, or PCB is not likely to cause health problems if it is done occasionally, such as eating fish caught during an annual vacation.

The Sacramento River and northern Delta advisory joins more than 100 other OEHHA advisories that provide site-specific, health-based fish consumption advice for many of the places where people catch and eat fish in California, including lakes, rivers, bays, reservoirs, and the California coast. Advisories are available on OEHHA’s Fish Advisories webpage.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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