New York State Department of Health Issues Updated Fish Advisories for 2023

New Advice for the Catskill Region Allows Families to Eat More Types of Fish from More Waters

NYSDOH and NYSDEC Continue to Monitor for PFAS in Fish

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 22, 2023) - The New York State Department of Health today issued updated advisories for the consumption of fish from waterbodies in the State. The advisories provide important health information to New Yorkers who enjoy fishing for food and for sport.

"Fishing is a wonderful sport and pastime, and I do want people to enjoy the local fish they have caught," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The Department continues to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to monitor potentially harmful chemicals in fish and to provide advice so that anglers can make healthy choices regarding the fish they eat."

The most notable update this year is the release of a new Catskill Region advisory that allows the sensitive population (people who may bear children and children under 15) to eat some fish from Catskill reservoirs and tributaries for the first time in decades, including popular species like rainbow and brook trout (up to four, half-pound meals per month) and brown trout (up to one, half-pound meal per month).

In addition, the Department has continued its collaborative work with the DEC to monitor per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in fish throughout the state. New advice has been issued for PFAS in fish for specific water bodies in the Leatherstocking/Central region and the Long Island Region. (See table below for details.) Like PCBs and mercury, some PFAS chemicals accumulate in fish, and levels in fish can be many times greater than in the water. The new PFAS advisories issued this year are based on guidelines developed in 2019 by the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories, an interstate collaborative that includes New York State's fish advisory program.

Fishing is a popular activity and fish are an important part of a healthy diet. However, some fish contain chemicals at levels that may be harmful to humans. Each year, the Department updates its health advice due to concerns about contaminants in fish like mercury, PCBs, and PFAS. The goal is to help people make healthier choices about which fish to eat and which to avoid. People who become pregnant and eat highly contaminated fish may be at a higher risk of having children with developmental or learning delays. Children who eat a lot of contaminated fish may also have potential for negative effects on their development and long term health. In contrast, older adults may face fewer health risks from these chemicals, so the advice encourages them to enjoy eating these sport-caught fish more frequently.

The Department's health advice is based on fish contamination data collected by DEC's statewide fish monitoring program. Each year, DEC performs several thousand chemical analyses on more than 1,000 fish samples and provides the results to DOH for use in setting consumption advisories.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York offers world-class fishing opportunities that attracts anglers from across the country to fish our waters. To support this thriving industry, the State continues to provide information regarding health risks from contaminants like PFAS so anglers can make well-informed choices about consuming their catch. DEC and the Department of Health will continue to track contaminants in fish to ensure the protection of public health and the environment and continue the progress being made to improve water quality so that even more restrictions are lifted in the future."

Mercury is the chemical of concern in the Catskill Region and the Department has updated its advice for the entire region based on the adoption of new health-protective guidelines in 2021. Anglers should follow the regional advice when fishing in any Catskill Region water that does not have a specific advisory.

Mercury occurs naturally but is also released into the environment from sources like coal combustion. New York State is a national leader in preventing the emission of mercury and other pollutants that cause contamination in wildlife and humans, particularly through the historic phase-out of in-state coal-fired power plants. Testing of fish in the Adirondacks and Catskills has shown that fish from these regions have higher levels of mercury than in other parts of the state.

Based on an annual review of data, the Department adjusts advice about eating locally caught fish each year. This year, the Department changed its advice for the waterbodies listed below. Click on the links to view the latest advice for these and other waters:

  • Catskill Regional as a whole
  • Ashokan Reservoir
  • Cannonsville Reservoir
  • Neversink Reservoir
  • Pepacton Reservoir
  • Schoharie Reservoir
  • North-South Lake
  • Herrick Hollow Creek
  • Rondout Reservoir (specific advisory removed. Department advises to follow new Catskill Regional advice.)
Catskill Region
  • Scajaquada Creek
  • Waterport Reservoir/Lake Alice
Western Region
  • Threemile Creek
  • Mohawk River/Erie Canal (between Lock 21 at New London and Lock 20 at Whitesboro)
Leatherstocking/Central Region
  • Peconic Lake/Peconic River (between the Edwards Avenue Dam and the Peconic Lake Dam
Long Island Region

Visit the Department's website for Health Advice on Eating Fish You Catch, here.

Additional information about how the Department sets fish advisories is available here.