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In 1996, 294 anglers fishing in the Hudson River between Hudson Falls and the Tappan Zee Bridge at Tarrytown were interviewed about their fishing habits and awareness of health advisories on eating fish from the river. As in 1991-92, when Hudson River anglers were also interviewed, about half the anglers knew of the state health advisories. Between the two surveys, awareness of the advisories had increased for anglers fishing in the Upper Hudson River (between Hudson Falls and the Federal dam at Troy) and decreased for those fishing between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge. Most anglers had learned of the advisories through publication in the fishing regulations guide provided when they purchased a fishing license. However, less than one-third of anglers fishing between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge had a fishing license. Many anglers learned of advisories through media coverage, word of mouth and signs posted in the Upper Hudson.

In both surveys, more than 90% of anglers said they were fishing for recreation or other similar reasons, and only 6-7% of anglers said they were fishing for food. Half of anglers reported catching fish. In 1996, a third of anglers had kept some fish that they caught, but this information was not available for the 1991-92 survey. In both surveys, about a third of anglers said they ate fish from the Hudson. In both surveys, the most important species caught by anglers (in order by number) were white perch, blue crab, striped bass, white catfish and largemouth bass. In 1996, the most important species kept by anglers (in order by weight) were white perch, white catfish, striped bass and carp. The weights of blue crab could not be estimated. Eighty five percent of all the fish kept by anglers were from the Hudson River between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge where women and children are advised to eat no fish and other are advised to eat no more than a meal per month of the species that are being kept.

The species of fish kept by anglers are among the species with the highest PCB concentrations. Between 1992 and 1996, PCB levels in white catfish averaged 8 milligrams per kilogram (parts per million - ppm), white perch averaged 3.9 ppm and striped bass averaged 2.2 ppm for fish caught between Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge. Some anglers and others who eat Hudson River fish are being exposed to PCB levels that are a health concern and are at risk of adverse health risks.

Until the sources of PCB which contaminate fish and other biota in the river are controlled, health advisories should continue to be issued. Additional community health education efforts are needed to inform those who still fish in the Hudson River of the health risk posed by eating contaminated fish. In addition,

  1. educational efforts should be focused on the Lower Hudson River and contiguous waters with the same advisories (e.g., Harlem and East River, New York Harbor);
  2. new techniques should be explored for finding and educating those who are eating Hudson River fish to the health risks, with particular attention paid to individuals who do not speak or read English; and
  3. a better survey should be conducted (i.e., one than more accurately represents all Hudson River anglers) to characterize those who eat, give away or sell Hudson River fish and to better understand how to convince anglers to follow the health advice.

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