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Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program

Walleye lined up on ice and snow
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program


Dr. Brandon Armstrong

EGLE's report entitled "A Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan's Surface Waters" (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.

Aquatic biologist Mike McCauley collects fish from the Carp River near Negaunee

History of the Program

The Michigan Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP) has been in existence since 1980. Prior to 1986, fish contaminant monitoring studies were conducted primarily to investigate localized areas of contamination. In 1986, the FCMP was redesigned to allow a better assessment of chemical contamination in fish throughout 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.

Program Objectives

  1. Determine whether fish from the waters of the state are safe for human consumption by collecting edible portion (e.g. fillets) contaminant data to be used by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service's (MDHHS) Eat Safe Fish program.
  2. Measure whole fish contamination concentrations in the waters of the state for trend analysis and to assist the EGLE's Wildlife Contaminant Monitoring Program.
  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 EGLE 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.

Program Components

Person holding a filet knife cleaning a filet

Edible fish portion monitoring

6 to 8 inch channel catfish are commonly used by EGLE in caged fish studies to assess contaminant spatial and temporal trends.

Caged fish monitoring

Row of fish laying on metal table

Native whole fish trend monitoring

Person working on a metal trap

Passive sampler studies

Program Process

Fish contaminant monitoring locations are determined each year based on several factors including available budget, contaminant data collected by other programs (e.g. surface water PFAS monitoring), requests received from the Targeted Monitoring Request program, surveys from our partner agencies (e.g. Michigan Department of Natural Resources [MDNR]), and the Water Resources Division's 5-year rotating watershed monitoring strategy.

The fish are collected through a variety of methods including electrofishing, gill-netting, trap-netting, seining, and hook and line.

Once collected, the fish are stored frozen until a large batch (200 to 300 fish) of samples can be processed and sent over to the MDHHS laboratory for contaminant analysis. The FCMP holds between 6 and 8 fish processing days each year.

Fish tissues are analyzed for bioaccumulative contaminants of concern including mercury, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides (e.g. DDT/DDE/DDD), dioxins, furans, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Data are reviewed each year to determine whether there are additional new parameters of concern for which the fish should be analyzed.

Fish in net hovering above water
Cover for guide showing bobber and hook for fishing

A database containing all fish contaminant data is maintained by the EGLE. All fish contaminant data are summarized in an annual fish contaminant report produced by EGLE's Water Resources Division. These data and other FCMP information are available by contacting Brandon Armstrong at 517-256-1853 or

The FCMP data are used by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop Eat Safe Fish Guides that are updated annually. Summaries of the data used by MDHHS for the Eat Safe Fish Guides are available via the Reports & Science button on

Also, the SWAS Manager serves as chair of Michigan's Fish and Wildlife Contaminant Advisory Committee (FAWCAC). FAWCAC is responsible for coordinating efforts to monitor contaminants in fish and wildlife and issue consumption advisories in Michigan.

Fish and Wildlife Contaminant Advisory Committee (FAWCAC)

EGLE logo


Management of environmental protection programs intended to reduce or eliminate contaminant loads to the environment. Sampling includes fish and wildlife in the environment and caged organisms to measure uptake of contaminants.



Assuring the safety of commercially sold or raised fish and wildlife. Sampling includes fish and wildlife in commerce or destined for commerce.

Department of Natural Resources Logo


Management of wildlife and commercial and recreational fisheries. Sampling includes fish and wildlife in the environment.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services


Evaluation of fish and wildlife contaminant monitoring data from the human health perspective and preparation of fish and wildlife consumption advisories. Analyses include assessment of human exposure and risk from eating fish and wildlife containing contaminants.

Related Links and Reports: