This time of year, one of the popular outdoor recreational activities is fishing. There are two general categories of fishing. The first is catch and release where the fish is returned to the water for the potential enjoyment of others. The second type could be considered capture fisheries where the fish is again utilized for the potential enjoyment of others through consumption. There has been a lot of information in the last several years about the benefits and potential risks associated with eating fish. There are many articles available on the subject, but for now, two ways of looking at the subject are “big picture” and “local recommendations.”
Just recently, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) published a third party report on the “Risks and Benefits of Seafood Consumption.” It’s obviously big picture as the report is for nation-states around the globe to make recommendations to their citizens on the importance of including fish in their diets. The two main talking points that came out of this publication is that fish are an important food source of energy, protein and a range of essential nutrients (think Omega-3 fatty acids). In general, the benefits associated with fish consumption outweigh the risks involved with ingestion of heavy metals such as mercury or dioxin-like compounds such as PCBs. The FAO did recommend that countries develop and maintain databases on specific nutrients and contaminants for fish consumed in their region. This is where local recommendations come in.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a Fish Consumption Advisory on their website as well as how to use it. Basically, there are restrictions on how much fish of certain species to consume, caught from particular bodies of water in your region of the state based on the level of contamination present. Again, the purpose is to get the health benefits of fish consumption but not the adverse risks associated with contaminants from certain water bodies. Fish from any water bodies not listed in the advisory are considered safe to eat and enjoy the health benefits of fish. Obviously the state does not test fish from every farm pond in the state, but these would generally be considered safe fish for consumption.
So if you are one of the fishers who like to take your catch home and enjoy the benefits of a healthy diet, do so with a little foresight as to where you are going fishing and check the advisory prior to your trip.