Earlier this year the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection revised its fish safety recommendations with little public or media attention. The primary concern for many years has been cancer-causing PCBs that accumulate in fish tissue, especially in the fatty meat. These chemical pollutants are no longer used in industry, but remain in the environment for many years. I found it almost shocking to learn that the safe level of consumption for striper, perch and eel caught in the Delaware Bay were changed to ONE MEAL PER YEAR. The previous recommendation was one meal per month. Women who are pregnant or of child-bearing age are not suposed to eat these fish at all. The only bright spot in the report is that the level of pollutants in oysters and mussels have declined.
This news has tremendous potential impact on the recreational fishing industry in my community on the Delaware Bay, yet the fishermen I know are either unaware or unimpressed. Some outwardly dismiss the warnings while others simply don’t think that the information they heard (from me) is reliable. In either case, it appears to be a classic case of denial. As for me, I will stick to eating weakfish (one meal per week) and Atlantic herring (much lower PCBs than imported kippers) for this season. As much as I love fresh local striper, perch and eel, it just does not seem worth the risk.