2003-11-28 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

The culmination of the fishing season ends on a high note for most enthusiasts who dare to brave the elements. After a slow start to the fall striper season and a dismal start to the late summer snapper/bluefish season, everything is now in high gear. Both blues and stripers are there for the taking. Usually the bluefish season starts earlier and keeps the striper enthusiasts entertained until the fall run begins. However, most had to rely on porgy action until the stripers showed up. Then the blues and stripers show up together! What a choice! Striper action is by far the most exciting but you can only keep one that is over the 28 inch minimum. Blues are great action too but taste too oily once their size exceeds 3-4 pounds.

I don’t eat fish that I catch except for flounder and fluke. I like to practice "catch and release". This enables me to enjoy the thrill of catching fish and returning them to the waters to be caught by others or to reproduce. I also don’t use hooks that cause a lot of damage to the fish. But there are other reasons I practice "catch and release" too. Being a nurse, I am familiar that toxins are stored in the fat of animals and humans. Over time we continue to absorb toxins. If we are thin, these toxins accumulate in 17 to 22% for females and 10-15% for males. A person of normal weight in proportion to their height is 22 to 25% for females and 15 to 18% for males. Therefore, we can store up to 25% of toxins in our bodies. If we weigh more, our fat storage increases. The New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Environment Conservation releases Fish Advisories every year or two to educate the public about safe levels of consumption of fish. Does the public ACTUALLY get to read these advisories? I have never seen them advertised or posted except on the Internet. That is a great disservice to those who have no Internet access. However, people have inquired about these recommendations, so I thought I would share them with our readers.

Chemicals are found in some fish at levels that may be harmful to your health. Some chemicals build up in your body over time or effect organs, such as the kidneys or liver.

Women of childbearing age may be at special risk from eating contaminated fish. During pregnancy and when breast-feeding, some chemicals (such as PCBs, dioxins and mercury) may be passed on to the baby. This can harm the baby’s growth and development. Children under the age of 15 should not eat contaminated fish because they are still growing and developing, and are at special risk from contaminants.

The Department of Health generally advises that no one should eat no more than one meal of fish per week from any of the state’s fresh waters. Some waters in New York have even stricter health advisories. For Jamaica Bay, Lower of Bay of New York Harbor and the Long Island South Shore Waters, the DOH advises the following: some species of fish and shellfish do contain chemical contaminants at levels that may cause adverse human health effects. For those species, people should follow the following advice: Women of childbearing age and children under the age of 15 should eat no striped bass from New York Harbor and Long Island Sound west of Wading River. Other people should eat no more than one meal per month of striped bass from these waters. Everyone should eat no more than one meal per week of striped bass from Long Island Sound east of Wading River, Peconic and Gardiners Bays, Block Island Sound, Long Island South Shore waters and Jamaica Bay. Everyone should eat no more than one meal per week of American eel and bluefish from any of these waters. Do not eat the hepatopancreas (mustard, tomalley, liver) of American lobster and blue crab. Make sure that you discard all cooking liquids right after you use them.

When I see people fish everyday and stuff their freezers for the coming months, I wonder what the impact is on their health. I love fishing and love people who fish. I want see everyone safe and for everyone one to make educated decisions about the fish they eat.

The Health Advisories are published in the Fishing and Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guides issued annually by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Health Advisories booklet and additional information can be obtained from the Health Department’s web site, or by calling the Department at 1-800-458-1158, extension 27815.


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