Consumption Advisory Issued for Gafftopsail Catfish in Sabine Lake

Consumption advisory issued for gafftopsail catfish in Sabine Lake

PORT ARTHUR – The Texas Department of State Health Services today advised limiting consumption of gafftopsail (gafftop) catfish from the Texas waters of Sabine Lake because of concerns about chemicals known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). PCBs are known to cause cancer and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in animals.

The advisory recommends limiting consumption to no more than 8 ounces per adult per month. Pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, women who are nursing infants, and children younger than 12 should limit consumption of gafftopsail catfish to no more than one 4 ounce meal per month.

DSHS issued a similar advisory for spotted seatrout and all catfish species from Galveston Bay in July 2008. This advisory remains in effect.

In January 2010, the DSHS Seafood and Aquatic Life Group was awarded project funding through a social services block grant to assess the potential health risks associated with consuming fish from Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake due to the catastrophic flooding that followed Hurricane Ike. Galveston Bay and Sabine Lake received floodwaters from some of the most populated and industrialized coastal areas in the country.

Samples from common species – including spotted seatrout (speckled trout), red drum (redfish), southern flounder and black drum – were analyzed. Only gafftopsail catfish (gafftops) showed potentially harmful levels of PCBs.

“This advisory should have a minimal impact on local fishing,” said TPWD Sabine Lake Ecosystem Leader Jerry Mambretti. “Sabine Lake has seen an increase in population numbers of red drum, spotted seatrout and flounder. DSHS samples did not show dangerous levels of contaminants in these and other species commonly found in Sabine Lake.”

Sabine Lake is a 68.7-square mile brackish water estuary located on the Texas-Louisiana border in Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas and Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The Sabine Lake estuary drains approximately 50,000 square miles of Texas and Louisiana into the Gulf of Mexico through Sabine Pass and is located adjacent to the large petrochemical producing complex of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur, Texas.

Today’s advisory applies to all Texas waters of Sabine Lake including all contiguous Texas waters. Samples were not taken from the Louisiana waters within Sabine Lake.

Since PCBs readily accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish, DSHS recommends anglers reduce exposure to these chemicals by removing the skin, dark (reddish-color) muscle tissue and fatty portions (belly fat, side fat, and fat along the top of the back) before cooking. Baking or broiling skinned, trimmed fish on a rack or grill will allow fat to drip away from the fillet, also reducing exposure. If fish are fried, the frying oil should not be reused. These cooking methods will reduce exposure to many of the most common organic chemical contaminants in fish, including PCBs. Additional information about preparing fish for consumption can be found at the DSHS Web site ( and in a brochure published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( )

For more information, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the TPWD fish consumption ban and advisories Web page (

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