Fish Contaminants

Contact: Joseph Bohr 517-284-5525

In 1997, the DEQ completed a report entitled "A Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan's Surface Waters" (Strategy).  This Strategy describes the monitoring activities that are necessary for a comprehensive assessment of water quality in Michigan's surface waters.  One component of the Strategy is expanded and improved fish contaminant monitoring.  

The Michigan Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP) has been in existence since 1980.  Prior to 1986, fish contaminant monitoring studies were conducted primarily to address specific problems.  In 1986, the FCMP was redesigned to allow a better assessment of chemical contamination in fish from the state's surface waters.  Fish contaminant data are used to determine whether fish from waters of the state are safe for human and wildlife consumption, and as a surrogate measure of bioaccumulative contaminants in surface water.  

The specific objectives of the FCMP are to: 

  1. Determine whether fish from the waters of the state are safe for human consumption. 
  2. Measure whole fish contamination concentrations in the waters of the state. 
  3. Assess whether contaminant levels in fish are changing with time. 
  4. Assist in the identification of waters that may exceed standards and target additional monitoring activities. 
  5. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of DEQ programs in reducing contaminant levels in fish. 
  6. Identify waters of the state that are high quality. 
  7. Determine if new chemicals are bioaccumulating in fish from Michigan waters. 

The fish contaminant program element consists of these components that, in combination, provide data necessary to achieve these objectives.  These include: 

  • Edible fish portion monitoring; 
  • Native whole fish trend monitoring; 
  • Young-of-the-year perch monitoring; and 
  • Caged fish monitoring. 

Fish tissues are analyzed for bioaccumulative contaminants of concern.  These include mercury, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides (e.g. DDT/DDE/DDD), dioxins, and furans.  More recently, some fish tissues have been analyzed for polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and other "emerging" contaminants.  Data are reviewed each year to determine whether there are additional new parameters of concern for which the fish should be analyzed.  

A database containing all fish contaminant data is maintained by the DEQ.  All fish contaminant data are summarized in an annual fish contaminant report produced by DEQ's Water Resources Division.  Summaries of the data used by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for the Eat Safe Fish Guides are available via the Reports & Science button on michigan.gov/eatsafefish.  All fish contaminant data and other Fish Contaminant program information is available by contacting Joseph Bohr at 517-284-5525 or bohrj@michigan.gov.

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