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Surface Water Quality Monitoring & Assessment Programs

Fish Contaminant Monitoring

Fish are able to accumulate contaminants and are thus a key indicator for determining water quality. Contaminant levels in fish are monitored through a cooperative effort between the Illinois Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Nuclear Safety, Public Health, and the Illinois EPA. This effort is commonly referred to as the "Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP)." Fish samples are collected from rivers and streams, inland lakes, and Lake Michigan. Pollutants causing advisories in Illinois fish include pesticides and other compounds such as chlordane (a commonly used termiticide/insecticide now banned from use) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols commonly used in electrical transformers), as well as the heavy metal mercury. Since bans have been imposed for these compounds (except mercury) during the mid and late 70s, there has been a considerable reduction in the concentrations of these pollutants found in fish. The Agency expects this trend to continue into the future as a result of decreases in the levels of the contaminants remaining in the environment.

The FCMP utilized U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S.FDA.) Action Levels (which apply to commercially-harvested fish in interstate commerce) as criteria values for issuing fish consumption advisories. However, with the consumption advisory for Lake Michigan for 1997, the FCMP began the process of converting the program from U.S.FDA. Action Levels to Health Protection Values developed in accord with the Protocol for a Uniform Great Lakes Sport Fish Consumption Advisory. These Health Protection Values, developed specifically for sport-caught fish, reflect more recent health effects data and are generally more stringent than U.S.FDA. action levels.

As a result of this important change (more stringent criteria) in 1999, it is possible that the number of surface waters in which fish consumption advisories are issued may increase over the next few years. It is important to note that these anticipated new or updated advisories will not always signal newly-discovered contamination or increased levels of contamination. In most cases, this will simply be a result of FCMP changes rather than worsening levels of contamination in fish.

Advisory information for specific waterbodies is available in the Illinois Fishing Information Booklet published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


The Fishing Booklet is an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. You will need the free Acrobat Reader software, available from Adobe's web site.


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