Dioxin Levels in Four Fish Species within Seafood Safety Standards -- October 10, 2001 2001/10/10 Dioxin Levels within Safety Standards

Four Recreational Fish Species

in NJ Coastal Waters

Found To Be within Safety Standards

Jon Gibson
PH: (508) 495-2228


NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center

N         E         W         S

Highlands, NJ -- Dioxin contaminants are well within the safe level in four popular recreational fish species collected along the northern New Jersey coast. A team of scientists, including researchers from NOAA Fisheries recently reported these findings in a technical report. Samples of bluefish, summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, and tautog (blackfish) had average levels of dioxin well below the federally-established safe threshold of 25 parts per trillion (ppt).

The northern tip of New Jersey's coast, the study area, is part of what oceanographers call the New York Bight Apex. The apex's water quality is heavily influenced by the outflow of the Raritan, Shrewsbury-Navesink, and Hudson Rivers. The study arose after concern about water quality and seafood safety in the apex following a toxic spill in the early 1990s. The study's results may also be useful in monitoring any effects on these fish if contaminant-laden sediments from the Hudson River are dredged, as presently proposed.

To begin the study, researchers collected samples from the four species by rod and reel from 15 popular fishing spots from Sandy Hook to Long Branch, N.J. The team filleted the fish, prepared composite samples of the fillets, and analyzed the samples for 17 different kinds of dioxins.

The most toxic kind of dioxin is called 2,3,7,8-TCDD. The analyses showed that levels of this dioxin in all summer flounder and black sea bass samples, in 10 of 14 tautog samples, and in 4 of 14 bluefish samples were below the recognized detection level of analytical instruments and methods. In the remaining bluefish and tautog samples, the levels never exceeded 8 ppt.

The contaminant study also looked at other kinds of contaminants, including nine metals (e.g., lead, mercury), 24 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 17 organochlorine pesticides (e.g., DDT, chlordane), and 25 PCBs. The analyses for these kinds of contaminants were performed earlier in the study, and publicly reported in 1995. Those analyses found that the levels of all of these other kinds of contaminants in all four species were below the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tolerance or action levels. This is the first public reporting, though, of the dioxin results.

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the New York State Department of Health each issue advisories about bluefish consumption. Information on local advisories for consumption of specific New Jersey fish is available online.

Information on local advisories for consumption of specific New York fish is available online, also.

There are no specific statewide advisories for summer flounder, black sea bass or tautog caught in New Jersey or New York waters. A listing of all state, tribal and federally-issued fish consumption advisories is available online.

A listing of all FDA tolerances, action levels, and guidance levels for contaminants in seafood is available online.

The FDA's federal advisory level for dioxin was developed for sport fish from the Great Lakes, and has been adopted as a guideline elsewhere.

In addition to NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in Highlands, N.J., researchers came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New York, and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

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