Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018
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Fish from lake OK to eat, officials say

DNR testing found no toxins in meat


While toxic Lake Erie algae has created a water crisis in Toledo, fish from the lake are safe to eat, state authorities and scientists have said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has conducted testing on fish from Lake Erie in the past to determine if the presence of algae blooms would result in the meat being tainted by toxins in the water. Jeff Tyson, the Lake Erie program administrator for the Division of Wildlife’s fisheries unit in Sandusky, said Saturday that the research indicated that the fish were safe to eat.

“There were no detectable amounts of these toxins in the tissues of the fish when we did that testing, and my feeling is that has not changed,” Mr. Tyson said. “As long as the fillets are properly cleaned and rinsed, they should be fine to eat.”

Paul Pacholski, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, said biologists from Ohio State University are engaged in additional testing of walleyes from the lake to determine if the algae blooms present any health concerns for people eating the fish, and as recently as this last week, Mr. Pacholski sent more tissue and water samples in for analysis.

“It needs to be stated over and over again that they have been doing this tissue study, and what they have found is that there is no issue with eating the fish from the lake,” he said.

Dave Spangler, the president of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper, an environmental, conservation, and educational group, said studies have shown that the toxins in the water would accumulate in the liver of the fish, and thus be discarded during the cleaning process.

“Everything we’ve seen to this point in the ongoing testing indicates that if the fish is cleaned properly and the skin removed, it should be safe for consumption,” Mr. Spangler said.

He said sections of belly meat from walleye have been sent to Ohio State for extensive examination.

“It’s important to note that they are conducting this testing on fish meat, as opposed to any other tissue from the fish, and they’re not finding any evidence of the toxin produced by this algae.”

Mr. Spangler, who lives in Carroll Township and had firsthand experience dealing with the microcystin-related water issues there a year ago, said the strong, sustained winds out of the north and northeast from early last week likely played a major role in the current water crisis in Toledo.

“Those winds really concentrated the algae in Maumee Bay and the western end of Lake Erie,” he said. “The area around Maumee Bay State Park is nasty looking. The algae is so thick in the marina, it looks like you could walk across it.”

Mr. Spangler said he was out on Lake Erie Thursday and Friday, and found “crystal clear” water northwest of West Sister Island, but the winds likely caused dense concentrations of the algae to collect at the Toledo water intake.

“I think the wind just stacked it up in the worst possible place,” he said. “But we shouldn’t really be shocked by this — Mother Nature has been waving a big, red flag about this issue for quite a while, and it looks like nobody was watching or paying attention.”

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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