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July 8, 2008

Consumption Advisory Issued for Spotted Seatrout from Galveston Bay

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of State Health Services today advised limiting consumption of spotted seatrout (commonly called "speckled trout") and all species of catfish from Galveston Bay because of concerns about chemicals known as PCBs and dioxins. This marks the first time the state health department has issued an advisory for an inshore  gamefish species from an entire major bay system.

The advisory recommends limiting consumption to no more than 8 ounces per adult per month. Women who are nursing, pregnant or who may become pregnant and children should not consume catfish or spotted seatrout from Galveston Bay.

Previously, in January 2005, DSHS issued a similar advisory for spotted seatrout from upper Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel. A 1990 advisory, still in effect, applies the same limits to catfish and blue crabs from that area.

Today’s advisory applies to all of Galveston Bay to the seaward end of the Galveston jetties and includes minor bays such as Chocolate Bay, East Bay, West Bay and Trinity Bay.

The new consumption limits come as the result of sampling conducted at numerous locations throughout Galveston Bay between October 2006 and May 2007.

Samples from numerous common species — including red drum (redfish), southern flounder, black drum and blue crab — were analyzed. Only spotted seatrout and gafftopsail catfish (gafftops) showed potentially harmful levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDF’s or dioxins) and polychlorinated  biphenyls (PCBs). Because freshwater catfish species are found in the upper reaches of the bay system and saltwater catfish have similar life histories, the advisory applies to all species of catfish.

"We’ve known for a long time that spotted seatrout typically don’t stray far from their home bay systems. But, from our tagging studies, we also know that these fish move around within the Galveston Bay complex," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division Regional Director Lance Robinson. "Some people might wonder about fish in adjacent waters, and at this point we just don’t know. The DSHS study did not include samples beyond Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay and East Bay."

Robinson said TPWD is supportive of DSHS in their attempts to locate additional funding to expand their monitoring efforts in waters adjacent to Galveston Bay and in other bay systems.

Galveston Bay is a 600-square-mile estuary on the upper Texas coast and is the seventh-largest estuary in the United States. Commercial and recreational fishing on Galveston Bay generates more than $1 billion per year, and more than half of the state’s expenditures for recreational fishing go directly or indirectly to Galveston Bay. Spotted seatrout is the most-targeted gamefish species in the bay.

"This may have some impact on local fishing guides and related services," said TPWD Galveston Bay Ecosystem Leader Bill Balboa. "But catch-and-release fishing is growing in popularity, and redfish and black drum are plentiful. DSHS samples did not show dangerous levels of contaminants in those species. Other species we don’t normally associate with the upper Texas coast — like gray snapper — are doing quite well here, and more and more anglers are targeting those. We even had a pretty good striped bass fishery here this past winter."

There have been no changes in size, bag or possession limits for spotted seatrout or catfish on Galveston Bay.

Since PCBs and dioxins readily accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish, Robinson recommends anglers reduce exposure to these chemicals by removing the skin, dark (reddish-color) muscle tissue and fatty portions (belly fat, side fat, and fat along the top of the back) before cooking.

DSHS recommends baking or broiling skinned, trimmed fish on a rack or grill to allow fat to drip away from the fillet.  If fish are fried, the frying oil should not be reused.  These cooking methods will reduce exposure to many of the most common organic chemical contaminants in fish, including PCBs and dioxins.  Additional information about preparing fish for consumption can be found at the DSHS Web site and in a brochure published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the TPWD fish consumption bans and advisories Web page.

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AR 2008-07-08


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