N.J. broadens fish advisories

Courier-Post Staff

The state has broadened fish consumption advisories for the Delaware River and Bay as the result of a statewide study.

For the first time, New Jersey is advising residents to limit their consumption of weakfish, a popular sport fish in the bay, and has revised recommendations for blue fish, another popular game fish. It has also extended restrictions for several species of fish caught in the river.

The biggest problem remains PCBs, a class of chlorinated compounds linked to cancer and impaired fetal brain development.

While PCB levels in fish have gone down dramatically since the mid-1980s, they are likely being found in bay fish as a result of contamination that accumulates in the fish they eat that travel through the lower river, state officials said Friday.

The state recommends eating only one meal of weakfish from the bay per month.

The state has also revised its advisories for bluefish, recommending only one meal per year of fish over 14 inches in length or one meal per month for fish under that length.

Gary Buchanan, chief of the state's Bureau of Natural Resources and Sciences, said the $500,000 study conducted over the past two years by the Academy of Natural Sciences based in Philadelphia has provided a better picture of fish contamination.

"In general, (PCB) levels are decreasing," he said. "We're seeing that in other states, but we're not there yet."

The state hopes to complete another study this spring to better assess fishing and consumption patterns along the area.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network's Maya K. van Rossum says state and regional regulators have not done enough to stop the flow of PCBs into the river.

"I'm not surprised that we're seeing an expansion of the breadth of advisories on the river," she said. "I think we will continue to see them increase."

The state continues its recommendation of eating no finfish caught in waters from the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line to the C&D Canal near Wilmington, Del. For American eel, channel catfish, white catfish and white perch caught in river waters north of this area to Trenton, it is recommended that high-risk groups refrain from eating these types of fish and others limit consumption to four meals a year.

Russell Foulke, a 41-year-old Gloucester Township resident, avidly fishes in the bay and river's tributaries. He adheres to a catch-and-release philosophy, but knows some fishermen who eat the fish caught in the river and its tributaries.

"I wouldn't advise anyone to eat fish out of the local areas or the Delaware River," he said.