Fish Consumption Advisories in Tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay: Improving the Communication of Risk to Washington, DC Anglers

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Virginia Tech


Fish consumption advisories are increasingly being issued by state and municipal governments with concerns about pollution in local waterways. These advisories are developed to inform the public about the potential dangers of consuming excessive amounts of locally caught fish. They are not enforceable limits, however, and are only guidelines and suggestions on what are considered safe meal sizes, safe meal frequencies, and species fit for consumption. As a result, few efforts are made to determine how well these advisories are being followed. In order to determine the efficacy of such urban advisories, anglers are interviewed in Washington, DC on the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Anglers are asked a number of questions pertaining to their fishing and consumption habits, advisory knowledge, and risk perceptions. The results suggest that several improvements can be made to better implement advisory efforts. Most importantly, minority anglers—particularly African-Americans—appear to be receiving the message in advisories, but are failing to comply with advisory recommendations. Cultural beliefs and influences, as well as information dissemination inadequacies, are cited as possible reasons for this failure. Lastly, strategies are presented that health and fisheries planners can use to better understand angler risk perception and better educate anglers about the risks of ignoring advisory recommendations.



Racial Issues, Environmental Justice, Risk Communication, Angler Surveys, Environmental Planning, Fish Consumption Advisories