Oil Spill - Fish and Shellfish Consumption Advisory
Because of the presence of oil in Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it is recommended that people not consume fish, shrimp or crabs from areas where oil is present. Persons should discard fish, shrimp or crabs that have oil on them or have a hydrocarbon smell or taste. For the full advisory from the Texas Dept. of State Health Services including answers to common questions, click here.
Seafood Consumption Advisories
While Galveston Bay is an outstanding place to fish, you need to be aware of seafood consumption advisories!
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issues seafood consumption advisories when tests on fish and shellfish indicate there is an increased risk to human health from the presence of toxic pollutants.
This map shows the seafood consumption advisories that are currently in place in the Galveston Bay system and its tributaries. There are really four areas, each having its own set of affected species.
Species Affected, and DSHS Advisories in Each Area of Concern
|Area||Species Affected||Pollutants||DSHS Advisory Number and Year Issued|
|The Houston Ship Channel and all contiguous waters north of the Fred Hartman Bridge (Hwy. 146), including the San Jacinto River below the Lake Houston Dam.||All species of fish and blue crab.||Dioxin, organochlorine pesticides and PCBs.||ADV-49 (2013)|
|Upper Galveston Bay and all contiguous waters north of a line from Red Bluff Point to Five Mile Cut Marker to Houston Point.||All catfish species, spotted seatrout, and blue crab.||Dioxin and PCBs.||ADV-50 (2013)|
|Galveston Bay system south of a line from Red Bluff Point to Five Mile Cut Marker to Houston Point, including Chocolate Bay, East Bay, West Bay, Trinity Bay, and contiguous waters.||All catfish species.||Dioxin and PCBs.||ADV-50 (2013)|
|Clear Creek upstream and west of Clear Lake.||All species of fish.||PCBs.||ADV-37 (2009)|
Consumption Advice You Should Follow for All Areas Except Clear Creek
In each of these three areas for the species listed, the following advice should be followed to decrease risks to human health:
Women of childbearing age and children under the age of 12 - DO NOT EAT ANY AMOUNT OF THE SPECIES LISTED!
Women past childbearning age and adult men - DO NOT EAT MORE THAN 8 OUNCES PER MONTH OF THE SPECIES LISTED!
Consumption Advice You Should Follow for Clear Creek Upstream of Clear Lake
All persons - DO NOT EAT ANY AMOUNT OF ANY SPECIES OF FISH!
Why Is There a Risk from Consuming the Species Listed in These Areas?
When fish and crab eat, they accumulate toxic pollutants present in the prey they consume or in tainted sediment or water they filter. This process is called bioaccumulation. These toxic materials - such as organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - are in the environment as a result of rainfall runoff from land, spills, leaks, and improper disposal of industrial wastes.
These pollutants can especially accumulate in the fatty areas, glands, and organs of fish and crabs. As a result, some species of fish that have higher fat content - such as spotted seatrout and catfish - are listed for the advisories while others - such as red drum, black drum, croaker, and flounder - are not. However, in areas of heavy industry such as above the Lynchburg Ferry, all species of fish and blue crabs may have higher concentrations.
Exposure to organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and PCBs can cause a range of illness from skin rashes to immune system and nerve disorders to liver damage and increased risk of cancer. These toxins also pose a risk of birth defects and the development of children. The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has more information on dioxins and PCBs.
What about Shrimp, Oysters and Clams?
There are no DSHS seafood consumption advisories on shrimp, oysters, or clams. However, the harvest of molluscan shellfish (oysters, clams, and mussels) is illegal in DSHS designated “Prohibited Areas” that are in proximity to sewage treatment plant discharge locations, known contaminated areas, or other area with a high potential of containing unsafe levels of a pollutant. For example, the Houston Ship Channel/San Jacinto River upstream of Morgan’s Point is a prohibited molluscan shellfish harvest area. You can find more information and maps on the DSHS Shellfish Harvest Classification webpage.
How You Can Reduce Your Risk from These Toxins
You should do your best to follow the advisory recommendations for consumption of the species listed in these areas. Instead of eating the same type of fish from the same waterbodies, you should fish for different species from a variety of waterbodies. You should eat smaller, younger fish that have less time to accumulate toxins in their bodies. Last, if you clean and cook the fish or crabs so that you avoid eating their fatty portions, you can reduce your risk.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council's Seafood Caution brochure has more information on the toxins and how you can prepare your catch so that your risk is decreased. DSHS has detailed information on each of these advisories. Click on the following links for PDF versions of each advisory:
These advisories and much more information such as detailed maps, risk characterization studies, and Frequently Asked Questions can be found on the DSHS Seafood and Aquatic Life Group webpage. Just click on "Fish Consumption Advisory" on the left-hand side of the page.
What is Being Done About Contaminated Seafood?
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Houston-Galveston Area Council have initiated total maximum daily load (TMDL) projects for the Houston Ship Channel, San Jacinto River, Upper Galveston Bay, and Galveston Bay to pinpoint sources of dioxins and PCBs and develop a plan to reduce them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing a cleanup of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site, one such source of dioxin to the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay. You are encouraged to participate as a member of the public in both of these projects!
For More Information
For more information on the seafood consumption advisories, please contact:
- Galveston Bay Foundation: Scott Jones at (281) 332-3381 x209 or email@example.com.
- Texas Department of State Health Services: Michael Tennant at (512) 834-6757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.