State issues advisories for fish caught in Illinois waterways

‘Do not eat’ advisory lifted for Illinois River; but other advisories in place

For the first time since the 1970s, there is no longer a “do not eat” advisory for fish in the Illinois River, but other guidances are in place.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources made the announcement Wednesday because of declining concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, a highly toxic industrial compound. A continued prevalence of the extremely toxic methylmercury, however, is responsible for new or more restrictive advisories in Illinois waters.

A statewide methylmercury advisory remains in place for all Illinois waters that have not been sampled by the Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program. The advisory cautions sensitive populations to eat no more than one meal per week of predatory fish, which pose a greater risk because they feed on other fish and accumulate larger concentrations of methylmercury. Predatory fish include all species of black bass and gar, as well as striped bass, white bass, hybrid striped bass, walleye, sauger, saugeye, flathead catfish, muskellunge (muskies) and northern pike.

Fish consumption advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive populations, which includes women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers and children younger than 15, according to the IDPH. While there is no known immediate health hazard from eating contaminated fish from any Illinois water body, there are concerns about the long-term effects of low-level exposure to chlordane (a now-banned pesticide), polychlorinated biphenyls and methylmercury in fish.

The Illinois Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program is a joint effort of the Illinois EPA, IDNR and IDPH. The fish are collected by IDNR and tested by IEPA. IDPH issues an annual fish consumption advisory based on IEPA test results. Fish advisories can be found on the IDPH website where you can view an interactive fish advisory map to learn which Illinois waters have a special mercury advisory or a PCB or chlordane advisory, and find additional resources.

In the Illinois River, there are advisories of no more than six meals per year for common carp, one meal per month for channel catfish, one meal per month for smallmouth bass and one meal per week for white bass from Dresden Island Dam to the Marseilles Dam in the Illinois River. From the Marseilles Dam to the Starved Rock Dam, advisories are for no more than one meal per month of common carp and channel catfish and one meal a week of white bass. From the Starved Rock Dam to Peoria, there are advisories for maximums of one meal per month for common carp and one meal per week for channel catfish, largemouth bass and white bass.

There are one meal per week and one meal per month advisories for common carp and channel catfish below the Dayton Dam in the Fox River.