EPA Guidance for Developing Fish Advisories

In addition to developing information for the general public on fish and shellfish consumption, EPA publishes a variety of guidance documents for state, local, regional, and tribal environmental health officials to help inform their fish advisories and safe eating guidelines.

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National Guidance

EPA developed the Guidance for Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories (EPA, 2000), Guidance for Conducting Fish Consumption Surveys, and associated Fish Consumption Survey Tool to help state, local, regional and tribal environmental health officials who are responsible for developing and managing fish consumption advisories. These documents are meant to provide guidance only and do not constitute a regulatory requirement.

The four-volume set on fish advisories provides guidance for assessing health risks associated with the consumption of chemically contaminated non-commercial fish. It is essential that all four documents be used together, since no single volume addresses all of the topics involved in the development of fish consumption advisories.

  • Volume 1: Fish Sampling and Analysis, Third Edition provides information on sampling strategies for a contaminant monitoring program. In addition, information is provided on selection of target species; selection of chemicals as target analytes; development of human health screening values; sample collection procedures including sample processing, sample preservation, and shipping; sample analysis; and data reporting and analysis.
  • Volume 2: Risk Assessment and Fish Consumption Limits, Third Edition provides guidance on the development of appropriate meal sizes and frequency of meal consumption (e.g., one meal per week) for the target analytes that bioaccumulate in fish tissues. In addition to the presentation of consumption limits, Volume 2 contains a discussion of risk assessment methods used to derive the consumption limits as well as a discussion of methods to modify these limits to reflect local conditions. Volume 2 also contains toxicological profiles for each of 25 target analytes.
  • Volume 3: Risk Management provides an overview of a risk management framework. This volume provides framework for selecting and implementing various options for reducing health risks associated with the consumption of chemically contaminated fish and shellfish. Using a human health risk-based approach, states can determine the level of the advisory and the most appropriate type of advisory to issue. Methods to evaluate population risks for specific groups, waterbodies, and geographic areas are also presented.
  • Volume 4: Risk Communication provides guidance on risk communication as a process for sharing information with the public on the health risks of consuming chemically contaminated fish and shellfish. This volume provides guidance on problem analysis and program objectives, audience identification and needs assessments, communication strategy design, implementation and evaluation, and responding to public inquiries.
  • Guidance for Conducting Fish Consumption Surveys (EPA, 2016): Provides guidance on the design, conduct, and analysis of surveys for estimating consumption rates of finfish and shellfish.
  • Fish Consumption Survey Tool (FCST) (zip)(1 pg, 3 MB) is software for conducting computer-assisted personal interviews about eating fish. It is based on the paper version of a consumption survey developed by the Suquamish Nation and is described in detail in Appendix D of the guidance for conducting fish consumption surveys.

Regional Guidance and Surveys

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