Despite ‘forever chemical’ contamination maine anglers keep eating freshwater fish

Mainers don’t have a clear idea of ​​how many so-called forever chemicals are in the freshwater fish they’re eating.

Yet even with the looming threat of expanded consumption advisories to protect public health, many of the state’s angles continue to eat some of the fish they harvest.

Sammy Muncey, a Registered Maine Guide from Lincoln, didn’t mince words on the subject.

“No concerns. I eat it all year round; never had it affect me in any way,” he said.

Freshwater fish are the latest natural food source in Maine found to be contaminated with perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals, also known as PFAS, have been discovered in well water on and around Maine farms in Fairfield, where even white-tailed deer are now contaminated. But with no state guidance yet in place for the consumption of freshwater fish, and given that most angles eat modest amounts of them, many feel relatively safe to eat at least some fish taken from Maine waters.

“I’m primarily a catch-and-release fisherman but do keep and eat fish a few times a year,” said Scott Wright of Readfield.

“I know there have been warnings about how much to eat certain fish for years, but it’s getting a lot more attention now.”

With methylmercury levels previously detected in fish across the state, and corresponding consumption advisories already in place for nearly 30 years, there is concern about how PFAS in fish might complicate the issue.

That level of attention is expected to intensify in the coming months and years as more fish — many of which already contain elevated levels of mercury — are tested for PFAS.

Currently, the state’s safety threshold for PFAS in fish — the level of contamination at which the state warns people against consumption — is 34 parts PFAS per billion. The state is weighing whether to lower that threshold to three or four parts per billion.

Joe Porada of Hancock, who owns Acadia Bays Clam and Oyster, said the remaining unknowns make it hard to draw conclusions about whether to eat freshwater fish, or how much.

“To me it’s not really valuable to see how people are feeling and thinking without having the science behind it,” Porada said.

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