Going fishing this weekend? You might want to take this guide to dinner.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard released an updated fish consumption guide for Cache Creek, detailing how much fish people can eat safely, based on mercury levels in a variety of species.
The guide, found on the office’s website at www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/cachecreek.html, updates a 2009 document, adding mosquitofish and new samples from prevalent species, and separating Cache Creek from Clear Lake species.
Due to historic volcanic activity, mercury occurs naturally in the Cache Creek area, but now-inactive mines exacerbate its release into the environment. When mercury enters streams and lakes, it settles to the bottom and forms an organic compound called methylmercury.
This contaminant works its way up the food chain, meaning that predators at the top often contain the highest contaminant levels. However, fish also provide high levels of omega-3s, which can improve cognition development in developing fetuses and reduce the risk of heart disease. The contaminant and nutrient concentrations were both taken into account when determining the number of recommended weekly servings.
The guidelines recommend that the most vulnerable group, which include children ages 0-17 and women of childbearing age (18-45), avoid bass, pikeminnow and crappie. Women older than 45 and men over 18 can safely consume one serving a week. Other fish species can be eaten more often, including carp, bluegill, catfish and suckers.