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How Much Rockfish Is Safe? Md. Gets New Guidelines

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CBS Baltimore (con't)

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland environmental officials are increasing their recommendation of how much rockfish can be safely eaten.

State officials announced Wednesday that it’s OK to eat three meals a month, up from two. That’s for the general population and for smaller striped bass caught in the Chesapeake Bay. The state also no longer recommends that women and children avoid certain striped bass.

The new guidelines, based on samples of 50 fish taken in 2009 and 2010, were released by the Department of the Environment ahead of Saturday’s opening of the spring rockfish season.

The three-meals-a-month recommendation is for fish under 28 inches. Larger fish tend to accumulate more contaminants, and the new guidelines call for limiting consumption of larger fish to one meal a month. The one-meal recommendation also applies to fish from the Atlantic, which tend to have more contaminants. Atlantic fish are believed to have higher levels because they migrate to more polluted areas.

Children should have no more than two meals a month of smaller rockfish and half a serving a month of larger fish or Atlantic rockfish under the new guidelines.

The two main contaminants in rockfish are PCBs and methylmercury.

Mercury comes from a variety of sources, including coal-burning power plants and trash incineration. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used as industrial lubricants and coolants before they were banned in 1977 because of environmental concerns. They are considered probable carcinogens.

Dr. Jed Miller, the department’s health adviser, said how fish is fileted and cooked can significantly lower consumption of PCBs. Studies have found not using the darker and fattier cuts along the belly and the midline can eliminate up to 91 percent of PCBs, he said.

How it’s cooked also matters. Broiling and baking that allows fat to escape lowers levels of contaminants, while breading and frying should be avoided.

“That holds in fat and fat is where PCBs collect,” Miller said.

Acting Environmental Secretary Robert Summers said fish is an important part of a healthy diet, “but we want to make sure we have a well-educated consumer.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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