For More Information
For more information about reducing your
health risks from eating fish that contain chemi-
cal pollutants, contact your local or state health
or environmental protection department. You
can find links to state fish advisory programs
and your state's fish advisory program contact
on the National Fish Advisory Program website

You may also contact:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Water
Fish Contamination Program (4305T)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

This brochure may be reproduced without the
EPA's permission at no charge.
EPA 823-F-14-002
   October 2014
    United States
    Environmental Protection
     Office of Science and Technology (4305T)
     Should  I  Eat the
        Fish  I Catch?
                Printed on recycled paper,
                                                       A guide to healthy eating
                                                         of the fish you catch
                                                          Developed in collaboration with the Agency
                                                          for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,
                                                          U.S. Public Health Service
                   Fish are an important part of a healthy diet.
                   They are a lean, low-calorie source of protein.
                   Some sport fish caught in the nation's lakes,
                   rivers, oceans, and estuaries, however, may
                   contain chemicals that could pose health risks if
                   these fish are eaten in large amounts.

                   The purpose of this brochure is not to
                   discourage you from eating fish. It is intended
                   as a guide to help you select and prepare fish
                   that are low in chemical pollutants. By following
                   these recommendations, you and your family
                   can continue to enjoy the benefits of eating fish.

                   Fish taken from polluted waters might be
                   hazardous to your health. Eating fish containing
                   chemical pollutants may cause birth defects,
                   liver damage, cancer, and other serious health

                   Chemical pollutants in water come from many
                   sources. They come from factories and sewage
                   treatment plants that you can easily see. They
                   also come from sources that you can't easily see,
                   like chemical spills or runoff from city streets
                   and farm fields. Pollutants are also carried long
                   distances in the air.

                   Fish may be exposed to chemical pollutants in
                   the water, and the food they eat. They may take
                   up some of the pollutants into their bodies. The
                   pollutants are found in the skin, fat, internal
                   organs, and sometimes muscle tissue of the fish.
What can I do to reduce my health risks
from eating fish containing chemical

Following these steps can reduce your health
risks from eating fish containing chemical
pollutants. The rest of the brochure explains
these recommendations in more detail.

1.    Look for warning signs or call your
     local or state environmental health
     department. Contact them before you
     fish to see if any advisories are posted in
     areas where you want to fish.

2.    Select certain kinds and sizes of
     fish for eating. Younger fish contain
     fewer pollutants than older, larger fish.
     Panfish feed on insects and are less likely
     to build up pollutants.

3.    Clean and cook your fish properly.
     Proper cleaning and cooking techniques
     may reduce the levels of some chemical
     pollutants in the fish.
                                                                                                                                                          HEALTH NOTE
                                                                                                      Advisories are different from
                                                                                                      fishing restrictions or bans or limits.
                                                                                                      Advisories are issued to provide
                                                                                                      recommendations for limiting the
                                                                                                      amount of fish to be eaten due to
                                                                                                      levels of pollutants in the fish.

Catching Fish
How can I find out if the waters that I
fish in are polluted?

It's almost impossible to tell if a water body is
polluted simply by looking at it. However, there
are ways to find out.

First, look to see if warning signs are posted
along the water's edge. If there are signs, follow
the advice printed on them.

Second, even if you don't see warning signs,
call your local or state health or environmental
protection department and ask for their advice.
Ask them if there are any advisories on the
kinds or sizes of fish that may be eaten from the
waters where you plan to fish. You can also ask
about fishing advisories at local sporting goods
or bait shops where fishing licenses are sold.

If the waterbody has not been tested, follow
these guidelines to reduce your health risks
from eating fish that might contain small
amounts of chemical pollutants.
 Some chemical pollutants, such as mercury
 and RGBs, can pose greater risks to women
 of child bearing age, pregnant women, nursing
 mothers, and young children. This group
 should be especially careful to greatly reduce or
 avoid eating fish caught from polluted waters.
                                                                   Trim away the skin and fatty tissue before cooking to
                                                                   reduce the level of some pollutants in the fish you eat.
                                                                                                   Cooking  Fish
                                                                back fat
                                                                body fat
Do some fish contain more pollutants
than others?

Yes. You can't look at fish and tell if they contain
chemical pollutants. The only way to tell if fish
contain harmful levels of chemical pollutants is
to have them tested in a laboratory. Follow these
simple guidelines to lower the risk to your family:

  If you eat gamefish, such as lake trout,
   salmon, walleye, and bass, eat the smaller,
   younger fish (within legal limits). They
   are less likely to contain harmful levels of
   pollutants than larger, older fish.

  Eat panfish, such as bluegill, perch, stream
   trout, and smelt. They feed on insects and
   other aquatic life and are less likely to contain
   high levels of harmful pollutants.

  Eat fewer fatty fish, such as lake trout, or fish
   that feed on the bottoms of lakes and  streams
   such as catfish and carp. These fish are more
   likely to contain higher levels of chemical
                                                                belly fat
Cleaning Fish
Can I clean my fish to reduce the amount
of chemical pollutants that might be

Yes. It's always a good idea to remove the skin, fat,
and internal organs (where harmful pollutants are
most likely to accumulate) before you cook the fish.

As an added precaution:

  Remove and throw away the head, guts,
   kidneys, and the liver.

  Fillet fish and cut away the fat and skin
   before you cook it.

  Clean and dress fish as soon as possible.
Can / cook my fish to reduce my health
risk from eating fish containing chemical

Yes. The way you cook fish can make a
difference in the kinds and amounts of chemical
pollutants remaining in the fish. Fish should be
properly prepared and grilled, baked, or broiled.
By letting the fat drain away, you can remove
pollutants stored in the fatty parts of the fish.
Added precautions include:

  Avoid or reduce the amount of fish drippings
   or broth that you use to flavor the meal.
   These drippings may contain higher levels of

  Eat less fried or deep fat-fried fish because
   frying seals any chemical pollutants that
   might be in the fish's fat into the portion that
   you will eat.

  If you like smoked fish, it is best to fillet the
   fish and remove the skin before the fish is
                                                           HEALTH NOTE
                                                                                                    Mercury is found throughout the tissue in fish,
                                                                                                    so these cleaning and cooking techniques
                                                                                                    will not reduce the amount of mercury in a
                                                                                                    meal offish.