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Fish consumption advisories: knowledge, compliance and why people fish in an urban estuary

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The risk to human consumers from contaminants in fish is often dealt with by issuing consumption advisories. The hypothesis that consumption rates vary as a function of knowledge about advisories was tested for 254 people fishing in the Newark Bay Complex, in the New York/New Jersey harbour estuary. Interviews were conducted in the complex throughout the fishing season. There were no ethnic differences in the percentage of people who fished, crabbed, or did both, Most people either fished or crabbed, but not both, which has implications for risk assessment and communication. Only 45% of the people interviewed had heard about advisories; American Indians had heard little about fish advisories, and Hispanics had heard little about crab advisories. There were ethnic differences in education, consumption patterns, and knowledge about advisories. Knowledge about consumption advisories and the amount of fish and crabs consumed are negatively correlated. Despite laws forbidding catching (and consuming) crabs from Newark Bay Complex, people continue to do so. A higher percentage of people who consume the most fish and crabs are aware of consumption advisories, compared to those at the low end of consumption, but people who consume no fish or crabs from the Newark Bay Complex have the highest level of knowledge. There are few differences in the ratings of the reasons for fishing between those who are, and are not, aware of advisories. Since people mainly fish and crab to be outdoors and with friends and family, relax, and commune with nature, risk assessors and communicators should acknowledge the social and aesthetic nature of the activity, and address consumption by separating the activity (fishing, crabbing) from the risk (pregnant women and children should limit consumption).

Keywords: Hispanic; New Jersey; consumption; crabbing; ethnicity; fishing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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