SACRAMENTO – A state fish advisory issued May 16 for Sunbeam Lake in Imperial County provides safe-eating advice for black bass species, Channel Catfish, Common Carp, sunfish species and Threadfin Shad.
The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) developed the recommendations based on the levels of mercury and selenium found in fish caught from Sunbeam Lake, according to a OEHHA press release.
The Sunbeam Lake advisory joins more than 130 other OEHHA advisories that provide site-specific, health-based fish consumption advice for many of the places where people catch and eat fish in California, including lakes, rivers, bays, reservoirs and the California coast, according to the release.
“Many fish have nutrients that may reduce the risk of heart disease and are excellent sources of protein,” OEHHA Director Dr. Lauren Zeise said in the release. “By following our guidelines for fish caught in Sunbeam Lake, people can safely eat fish low in chemical contaminants and enjoy the well-known health benefits of fish consumption.”
When consuming fish from Sunbeam Lake, according to the press release, the following advice is issued:
Women ages 18–49 and children ages 1–17 may safely eat a maximum of 7 total servings per week of Channel Catfish or Threadfin Shad; or 4 total servings per week of Common Carp or sunfish species; or 2 total servings per week of black bass species.
Women ages 50 and older and men ages 18 and older may safely eat a maximum of 7 total servings per week of Channel Catfish or Threadfin Shad; or 5 total servings per week of black bass species; or 4 total servings per week of Common Carp or sunfish species.
One serving is an eight-ounce fish fillet, measured prior to cooking, which is roughly the size and thickness of your hand. Children should eat smaller servings. For small fish species, several individual fish may make up a single serving.
A poster with the safe eating advice for Sunbeam Lake is available on OEHHA’s website in both English and Spanish. For fish species found in Sunbeam Lake that are not included in this advisory, OEHHA recommends following the statewide advisory – bit.ly/EatingFishFromCalifornia – for eating fish from California lakes and reservoirs without site-specific advice.
Mercury is released into the environment from mining and burning coal. It accumulates in fish in the form of methylmercury, which can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in developing children and fetuses. Because of this, OEHHA provides a separate set of recommendations specifically for children up to age 17 and women of childbearing age (18–49 years).
Selenium is an essential nutrient that is naturally present in the environment. However, high-level exposure can cause health problems such as hair loss, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness and tremors, according to the press release.
"OEHHA’s fish advisory recommendations are based on the levels of contaminants, such as mercury, that persist in the environment and accumulate in fish," the release reads. "They are independent of any advisories to limit fish intake due to freshwater or estuarine harmful algal blooms (HABs). Before fishing, check the California HABs Portal to see if there are recommended HAB advisories and always practice healthy water habits."
"Eating fish in amounts slightly greater than the advisory’s recommendations is not likely to cause health problems if it is done only occasionally, such as eating fish caught during an annual vacation," it reads.
Advisories are available on OEHHA’s Fish Advisories webpage at oehha.ca.gov/fish/advisories.
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