Fishing is part of our way of life, and fish are a delicious and nutritious part of a healthy diet. Yet testing shows certain fish from the Upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt contain chemicals (mercury and PCBs) that can harm health. While some species have high levels of chemicals, other species are much lower. The chemicals are of greatest concern for babies and children. Women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children should carefully follow the state’s meal recommendations to avoid or reduce exposure. Choosing fish low in contaminants allows people to enjoy eating fish and get its important health benefits.
Kokanee, rainbow trout, and lake whitefish are the best options from Grand Coulee Dam to the Canada border; they can be safely eaten 2-3 times a week. Walleye, burbot, longnose sucker, mountain whitefish, and smallmouth bass are also good choices but should be limited to one meal a week. People who aren’t in a high risk group can safely eat three times the amount recommended for all species of fish listed in this advisory.
The state Department of Health has been working with many partners to develop clear advice for choosing the healthiest fish and let people know which species should be eaten in moderation or avoided. The group includes federal, state and local agencies, the Spokane Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Citizens for a Clean Columbia, the Lake Roosevelt Forum, and local public health agencies. The group used fish consumption advisory recommendations to create new, easy-to-read signs and handouts that are being posted and handed out at tribal and federal boat launches, campgrounds, local businesses, and local public health agencies along the stretch of river covered by this advisory.
The complete Upper Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt) Fish Consumption Advisory (doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-305.pdf) is available on the Department of Health website (doh.wa.gov/fish), or by calling toll-free 1-877-485-7316. A fish guide for grocery shopping or ordering fish at restaurants is also available.