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Monday, June 26, 2017

Perceptions as Indicators of Potential Risk from Fish Consumption and Health of Fish Populations


Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey

Government, scientists, managers, and the public are interested in assessing the health of ecosystems and their component parts, including humans. Indicators normally provide information on individuals, species, communities or ecosystems, and are characteristics of individuals or populations, such as contaminant levels, abnormalities, cancers, diseases, reproductive success, and survival. This paper recommends the development of indicators reflecting attitudes and perceptions that influence behavior, which then affect exposure, as well as species and ecosystem management. Interviews were conducted (N = 329) of people from Barnegat Bay New Jersey, the NY/NJ harbor, and Long Island to examine fishing behavior, consumption patterns, perceptions of consumption advisories and contaminants of concern, and the health of local fish populations. Using fish, fishing, and fish consumption as a case study, indicators of perception and attitudes are described that will be useful in exposure analysis, risk analysis and management, and ecosystem management. Average monthly consumption was five fish meals/month (2.1 from self-caught fish). The primary reasons people went fishing were to be outdoors, relax and engage in recreation. Most respondents (62%) thought fish populations were declining, due mainly to overfishing and pollution; some (27%) thought they were increasing because of regulations and improved water quality (mainly in Barnegat Bay). I suggest that information on (and methodologies used to assess) fishing, fish consumption, knowledge of consumption advisories, perceptions of appropriate information sources, and knowledge about fish populations should be formalized into indicators that can be used uniformly over spatial and temporal scales to provide comparability among and within regions and years.

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