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Media contact:
Jonathan Modie or Susan Wickstrom
OHA Communications 971-246-9139
Technical contact:
Dave Farrer
Oregon Public Health 971-673-0971
Additional contacts:
Rebecca Hillwig
Oregon Public Health 971-673-0431

6/26/2014

Limit consumption of some fish species in Applegate Lake

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet, especially migratory fish like salmon when available. However, Oregon health officials are issuing a fish consumption advisory on certain species from Applegate Lake due to elevated levels of mercury found in fish tissue. Applegate Lake is located in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest about 30 miles southwest of Medford.

The Oregon Health Authority does not know how long the advisory will last.

Mercury can build up in resident fish such as bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, catfish, and suckers that live in one place their entire life and are exposed to these contaminants over their lifecycle. If a person eats too much contaminated fish, there can be negative health effects over time, such as impaired brain development, and damage to organs, the nervous system and reproductive system.

Hatchery-raised rainbow trout and salmon are considered a healthy choice for eating. While there are no data specific to these species in Applegate Lake, their diets make them less likely to accumulate harmful levels of mercury. Trout and salmon less than 12 inches in length are an especially healthy choice.

Fish consumption recommendations for Applegate Lake are as follows:

  • Pregnant women, nursing mothers and children should eat no more than two meals per month of large- and smallmouth bass and yellow perch, and no more than four meals per month of panfish (bluegill and crappie).
  • Men and women beyond childbearing age should eat no more than five meals per month of large- and smallmouth bass and yellow perch, and no more than 13 meals per month of panfish.
  • If the maximum amount of fish covered by an advisory is eaten in a month, do not consume any more of these fish during that month.

A meal is about the size and thickness of your hand.

Fetuses, nursing babies and small children are most vulnerable to the health effects of mercury, so it is especially important that pregnant and nursing women follow this advice. Fetuses and babies exposed to high levels of mercury can suffer life-long learning and behavior problems. The Oregon Health Authority recommends all women of childbearing age (18 to 45) follow fish advisories. Anglers also should not give resident fish caught from Applegate Lake to others unless the recipients are aware of where the fish were caught, and that they understand the current fish advisory recommendations.

It is important to know that many waterbodies in Oregon are not monitored, and that when they are monitored, not all fish species are collected and analyzed. The Oregon Health Authority recommends following these basic principles when an advisory is not in place:

  • Eat migratory and first-year stocked fish over resident fish.
  • Eat fish at the smaller end of the legal size limit instead of big fish.
  • Eat a variety of different fish from different waterbodies.

These principles, when followed, will maximize the benefit of fish consumption as part of a healthy diet while reducing the risk of exposure to contaminants.

By issuing the advisory, the Oregon Health Authority hopes to increase the public’s awareness of which fish species to avoid, and which to keep eating. While it is important for people to know about contaminants in fish, it is equally important to keep fish on the table. The Oregon Health Authority continues to encourage people including pregnant women to eat a variety of fish as part of a healthy diet. Migratory fish such as salmon and steelhead are an essential source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, and are low in contaminants.

To learn more about why fish is good for you and get information about fish consumption advisories in Oregon, visit the Oregon Public Health website.

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