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posted on July 02, 2012 11:38

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        DATE: July 2, 2012

Contact: Tom Shanahan
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0668

Catfish Advisory Issued for Lower Boise River

The Idaho Division of Public Health wants to let fishermen and their families know that catfish in the lower Boise River have been found to have levels of mercury that could be dangerous to developing babies, children, and the general public if eaten too often.  As a result, a fish advisory has been issued for catfish for the lower Boise River. 

In general, eating fish and seafood is good for your health. Fish are low in fat, high in protein and have many beneficial nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals eat 2-3 servings a week of fish, including shellfish, to improve heart health. 

However, since mercury can affect the development of children’s nervous systems and their ability to learn, Idaho health officials are advising women who are pregnant, wanting to become pregnant, women who are nursing, and children 15 years and younger to limit the amount of catfish they eat from the lower Boise River. The recommendation for these women and children is to eat no more than 3 meals per month of catfish and to avoid eating any other fish if they consume this amount. For the general population, the recommendation is to limit catfish meals to 11 per month and to avoid eating any other fish if they consume this amount.  A list of specific water body fish advisories can be found on IDHW’s website (, click on Fish Advisories.

Catfish caught near Parma were tested. Catfish are highly migratory, so the advisory is for the lower Boise River from the confluence with the Snake River upstream to the Caldwell area. Catfish typically live in habitat with warmer waters and muddy river bottoms, which the lower Boise River supports.

Catfish often absorb more mercury than other species because of their diet.  Other fish species caught and tested in the Boise River have not shown high levels of mercury.  However, both smallmouth and largemouth bass reside in the lower Boise River and there is a statewide bass consumption advisory for mercury in bass.  

Safe fish eating recommendations:

  • Eat smaller, younger fish since they have less mercury and other contaminants.
  • Eat fewer fish that feed on other fish (such as bass, walleye, catfish, large brown trout) since these fish typically have higher levels of mercury.
  • To reduce other potential contaminants besides mercury, cut away the skin and fat before cooking.
  • Check the IDHW website ( and click on Fish Advisories for specific water body advisories and follow that guidance.
  • If there is no advisory for the lake or stream where you are fishing, women of reproductive age and children can eat up to two meals of fish from that water a week and avoid eating any other fish.
  • Rainbow trout are typically low in mercury and up to four meals a week can be safely eaten.
  • For a safe eating guide to store-bought fish, see the IDHW website (, click on Fish Advisories and then click on Safe Fish Eating Guidelines for Pregnant Women and Children.

IDHW advises that the benefits of eating fish are great and Idahoans should not stop eating fish.  Rather they should choose carefully the type of fish they eat and the amount of fish they eat.  When the right fish choices are made, the benefits of eating fish that are low in mercury outweigh any risk.  

For more information, please call IDHW’s Environmental Health Education and Assessment Hotline at 1-866-240-3553.