80 ppm

molluscan bivalves

Source: FDA 1999.

Source: FDA 1999.

pcbs and other toxicants

Toxic substance contamination is widespread in the Hudson and is covered in other chapters. It has had a fundamental impact on fisheries here, as well as throughout New York State. Fish commonly angled in the Upper and Lower Hudson contain ten-fold greater levels of PCBs than Great Lakes fish, and these levels are two orders of magnitude greater than found in Chesapeake Bay (Baker et al., 2001).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the interstate sale of contaminated products. FDA guidelines on selected toxic substances are given in Table 14.2. Note that for PCBs, the action level of 2 ppm is now considered by many to be too high, and many states are adopting more stringent guidelines. This has translated into the closure of commercial fisheries for striped bass since 1976, some of which do remain for many years in the Hudson and build up elevated body burdens of PCBs (Zlokovitz and Secor, 1999). Other species for which smaller commercial fisheries existed include eels, bullhead, and carp, all of which currently contain high levels of PCBs and other contaminants. According to data from Skinner et al. (1996, 1997), striped bass also exceed the action limits on mercury and dioxin, eels do so on PCBs, DDT, dioxin, and chlordane, and white perch has concentrations above the action limit for chlordane.

Although crustaceans bioaccumulate high levels of metals and organochlorines in their hepatopan-creas, their muscle tissue is very low in contaminants, and hence fisheries persist with the caveat that hepatopancreas, or "tomalley," should be discarded. The only other commercial fisheries that persist are for American shad and river herring which as adults only return to the Hudson to spawn, and therefore have low contaminant burdens. River herring are sold as bait to striped bass sport fishers. Ironically, the increase of striped bass that cannot be kept and sold commercially has driven some of the few remaining commercial fishers to give up, because the nets become full with striped bass and must be laboriously picked out without profit.

Since the awareness of widespread contamination in the 1970s, the New York State Health Department and the DEC both issue annual health advisories against eating certain fish from particular waters, including many specific areas within the Hudson drainage. Nevertheless, angler surveys indicate that the message does not always get through to the fishers. A survey by Barclay (1993) interviewed anglers in 1991 and 1992 at twenty shorefront locations from Fort Edward to New York Harbor. Survey respondents were predominantly male (92 percent) and 84 percent were between the ages of 15 and 59. Two-thirds of the anglers were Caucasian, 21 percent were African American, and 10 percent were Hispanic (others were 2 percent). Barclay found that almost one-fifth (18 percent) of the anglers who eat their catch were trying to catch blue crabs, whereas another 23 percent indicated they were not targeting any particular species. Of those who eat their catches, only 48 percent were aware of health advisories. Fish consumption varied by ethnicity; 94 percent of Hispanic, 77 percent of African American, and 47 percent of Caucasian anglers ate their catches. During 1995 in a New Jersey portion of New York Harbor, Burger et al. (1999) found there were ethnic differences inconsumptionrates, sources ofinformation about fishing, knowledge about the safety of the fish, awareness of fishing advisories, and knowledge about health risks.

Mostrecently, in 1996, NYSDOH (2000) surveyed shoreline-based anglers on the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Tarrytown, New York; the protocol of this survey was similar to that of Barclay (1993). Three regions were defined: Area 1, from Hudson Falls to the Federal Dam at Troy; Area 2, from the Federal Dam to Catskill; and Area 3, from Catskill to Tarrytown. Because of high levels of PCB contamination, angling in Area 1 during 1996 was catch-and-release only. In both the Barclay (1993) and NYSDOH (2000) surveys, more than 90 percent of anglers said they were fishing primarily for recreation or other similar reasons, and only 6-7 percent said they were fishing primarily for food. In 1996, about one-third of anglers surveyed had kept at least some of the fish they caught from the river.

The most numerous catches were of white perch and blue crab, with striped bass, white catfish, and American eel also frequent (NYSDOH, 2000). But species most commonly kept (by total weight and in order) were white perch, white catfish, striped bass, and carp. Together with the two black basses, bluefish, and American eel, these eight species accounted for 83 percent by weight of the fish observed to have been harvested in this survey. NYSDOH (2000) concluded that numerous anglers in Area 3 remained unaware of health advisories for consumption of fish from the Hudson River. This is likely because anglers fishing the lower Hudson are not required to purchase licenses, and the health advisories are included in the state's fishery regulations booklet given out with the license.

A landmark decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000, upheld by Director Whitman in August 2001 (Johnson, 2001), enforces a dredging order that will require sediments from a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the upper Hudson to be removed. These contaminated sediments have been shown to be the greatest continuing source of PCB contaminationfor fishin the River and Estuary. As Baker et al. (2001) point out, such a massive project will require careful execution and monitoring, but the resultant lowering of PCB concentrations in fish should be rapid following project completion. This will have the immediate effect of permitting consumption of many currently inedible species.

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