Public Radio for Alaska's Bristol Bay
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Alaska Department of Health Adds Species to "Unrestricted Consumption" List

Alaska has expanded its fish testing data and released new fish consumption guidelines.  The new guidelines increase the number of fish species on the “unrestricted consumption” list. 

The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released a report upgrading several species of fish to unrestricted status.  Some of the new fish include halibut up to 40 pounds, lingcod measuring up to 35 inches, big skate, black rockfish, broad whitefish, Dolly Varden, dusky rockfish, grayling, humpback whitefish and rough eye rockfish. 

The report states that although the actual guidelines are not different, the department was able to sample a larger amount of fish with greater diversity.  Environmental Public Health Program Manager at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Ali Hamade says the first fish consumption guideline came out seven years ago.

“And since that time the fish monitoring program that managed by the State Veterinarian Office and the Department of Environmental Conservation had analyzed quite a few more fish than in 2007. That’s up to about 6 or 7 thousand samples. Based on that information we were able to provide more guidance just because there was more data. We also found a need to review the epidemiology and the scientific studies done worldwide to see if there was any need to change our approach about what we can recommend as safe or not in terms of fish consumption.”

Hamade says the biggest containment found in fish that prevents fish from being safe to consume is mercury.  However, there are other toxins and problems that the Department of Environmental Conservation looks for when they are looking at the safety of fish.

“We actually even apply a safety net, a kind of uncertainty factor, to make sure that maybe that while Alaskans are different than these other people and we come up with this precautious number and we apply it to the data and make the recommendations.”

Hamade says these guidelines only really apply to women of child bearing age and children because toxins that are sometimes found in fish can have negative effects on a young nervous system.  However, this report was released just a month after the Food and Drug Administration announced that women should eat a minimum of eight ounces of fish per week.