Md. warns of eating too many rockfish
PCBs contaminate fish in Chesapeake


By GRETCHEN PARKER
Associated Press
06/11/2004


ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland 's Department of the Environment released guidelines Thursday recommending for the first time that people should limit themselves to eating just a couple of Chesapeake Bay rockfish a month.

Because of the chemical compounds PCBs contained in Maryland's official state fish, also known as striped bass, the department recommends men eat only two servings of rockfish a month; women of child-bearing age and children should eat only one serving a month.

PCBs -- polychlorinated biphenyls -- are chemical compounds once widely used in plastics and electrical insulation.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and several other organizations have confirmed that PCBs damage brains of human fetuses.

The department tested 150 rockfish from six locations in the bay and its tributaries from 2001 to 2003, the agency said in a news release.

The data show that Maryland families can "safely include fish in their diet if they follow basic, commonsense precautions," said Environment Secretary Kendl Philbrick in the release. But the data prove that bay pollution is becoming more dangerous for marine life and for consumers, said William Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"Fish in the Chesapeake Bay are exposed to toxic chemicals at levels that have implications for the health of the fish and the people eating them," Baker said in a statement. "That the Bay suffers from this pollution is not acceptable."

The bay's bounty of rockfish has been touted as one of the estuary's few success stories. The state instituted a rockfish ban in 1985 after a collapse in the bay population. By the time the moratorium was lifted in 1990, the population had recovered.

Now, the start of rockfish season brings recreational fishermen to the boat ramps in swarms.

Last year brought the bay's highest rockfish catch since 1996.