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DHS news release

Jan. 18, 2006


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282

Technical contacts: Dave Stone, DHS (971) 673-0444

Gary Stevens, Jackson County (541)-774-8206


Elevated levels of mercury found in sport-caught fish from Emigrant Reservoir in Jackson County



The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), in cooperation with Jackson County Health Department, is advising the public today of elevated levels of mercury in fish caught from Emigrant Reservoir, southeast of Ashland.


The advisory recommends specific limits on the amount of fish eaten from this reservoir and the levels of mercury detected, said Dave Stone, DHS toxicologist.


In the fall of 2005, smallmouth bass and rainbow trout were sampled from Emigrant Reservoir. The sampling showed that the average level of mercury in bass fillets was 0.82 parts per million (ppm). The average level of mercury in rainbow trout fillets was 0.18 ppm.


DHS generally issues mercury advisories when the levels are above 0.35 ppm.


The newly recommended limits for consumption of fish from Emigrant Reservoir apply to all resident fish, except for rainbow trout. They are:


  • Women of childbearing age, especially if pregnant or nursing, children under 6 and people with pre-existing health conditions should avoid eating fish from these waters.
  • Healthy adults should eat no more than one 8-ounce meal per month. Once mercury enters the food chain it is not likely to diminish or disappear from fish over time.


Stone emphasized there are no meal restrictions in place for rainbow trout.


This advisory is for fish consumption only and does not pertain to other uses of the reservoir.


Emigrant Reservoir anglers are encouraged to practice catch-and-release fishing, especially for larger specimens of any species, because larger and older fish have greater accumulations of mercury in their tissue. Exposure cannot be significantly reduced by cleaning, cooking, brining, smoking, canning or other preparation techniques because mercury is bound to muscle tissue in fish.


Stone said fish is known to be an excellent source of nutrients, and DHS encourages eating of a balanced diet of seafood from multiple sources.


Additional information on mercury and fish can be found on the DHS Fish Advisories Web site.