This post was written by Heather Stephenson, for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s, Great Kids, Great Outdoors:
Back in the day, we didn’t think twice before eating a trout caught on a camping trip. But pollutants that permeate our environment collect in the bodies of fish, making some of them dangerous to eat, particularly for children and pregnant women.
To keep brain-damaging mercury and cancer-causing PCBs out of your camp cooking, check fish advisories for the waters in which you are casting. And to teach your children the sobering lesson of how often it’s safe to eat different types of fish, turn to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Fish Kids page.
There you can find a simple matching game that helps players learn to recognize different types of fish they might encounter on a camping trip, sport fishing trip, or shopping trip. For example, the camping trip cards feature images of brown trout, bluegill, northern pike, and other fish you might catch.
The site also offers an online fishing game, in which the player must catch a certain number of fish that a posted advisory says are safe to eat before the time runs out. The colorful interface lets you dangle a line (using a computer mouse for simple controls) to try to catch bluegill, yellow perch, and salmon (OK to eat twice a week) and warmouth, rainbow trout, and black crappie (OK to eat once a week), while avoiding the fish that you shouldn’t eat because of their high levels of mercury or PCBs. The game is pretty simple, but the format might catch your child’s interest—and help your child learn—better than a plain educational statement would.
If you lead groups that go fishing, run a camp, or serve as a health educator, you might also be interested in the EPA’s free informational resources, including “Should I Eat the Fish I Catch?” and “What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish And Shellfish” brochures (in multiple languages), magnets and keychains with information about fish and health, and “One Fish, Two Fish, Don’t Fish, Do Fish” posters.
Of course, throwing contaminated fish back into polluted lakes and rivers isn’t enough. If you want to do more to protect your own family and others from pollutants, think beyond your individual decisions while fishing or shopping, and support conservation groups and others who are advocating for clean air, clean water, and safe food.