Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino County Offers Safe Eating Advice for Four Species of Fish

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A new state fish advisory issued today provides safe eating advice for black bass species, Common Carp, crappie, and Rainbow Trout from Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino County.

The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) developed the recommendations based on the levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in fish caught from this lake.

“Many fish have nutrients that may reduce the risk of heart disease and are an excellent source of protein,” said Dr. Lauren Zeise, director of OEHHA. “By following our guidelines for fish caught at Big Bear Lake, people can safely eat fish low in chemical contaminants and enjoy the well-known health benefits of fish consumption.”

Big Bear Lake is located in San Bernardino County, approximately 25 miles northeast of the city of San Bernardino.

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When consuming fish from Big Bear Lake, women ages 18-45 and children ages 1-17 may safely eat a maximum of five servings per week of crappie or Rainbow Trout, or one serving per week of black bass species or Common Carp. Women ages 46 and older and men ages 18 and older may safely eat a maximum of seven servings per week of crappie, or five servings per week of Rainbow Trout, or two servings per week of black bass species or Common Carp.

One serving is an eight-ounce fish fillet, measured prior to cooking, which is roughly the size and thickness of your hand. Children should be given smaller servings.

For fish species found in Big Bear Lake that are not included in this advisory, OEHHA recommends following the statewide advisory for eating fish from California’s lakes and reservoirs without site-specific advice.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that is released into the environment from mining and burning coal. It accumulates in fish in the form of methylmercury, which can damage the brain and nervous system, especially in developing children and fetuses. Because children and fetuses are especially sensitive to mercury, OEHHA provides a separate set of recommendations specifically for children up to age 17, and women of childbearing age (18-45 years).

PCBs are a group of industrial chemicals. At high levels of exposure, they can cause health problems, including cancer. Although they were banned in the United States in the late 1970s, PCBs persist in the environment for many years and are still found in the environment from spills, leaks or improper disposal. PCBs accumulate in the skin, fat, and some internal organs of fish. In order to reduce exposure from PCB contamination in fish, OEHHA recommends eating only the skinless fillet (meat) portion of the fish.

Eating fish in amounts slightly greater than the advisory’s recommendations is not likely to cause health problems if it is done occasionally, such as eating fish caught during an annual vacation.

The Big Bear Lake advisory recommendations join more than 90 other OEHHA advisories that provide site-specific, health-based fish consumption advice for many of the places where people catch and eat fish in California, including lakes, rivers, bays, reservoirs, and the California coast.

The health advisory and eating advice for Big Bear Lake – as well as eating guidelines for other fish species and California bodies of water – are available on OEHHA’s Fish Advisories webpage: http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/advisories. Pictorial versions of fish consumption advice are also available on this page in both English and Spanish.

OEHHA is the primary state entity for the assessment of risks posed by chemical contaminants in the environment. Its mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances.

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