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Fish from Ridgway Reservoir and San Miguel River deemed safe for human consumption

Colorado Parks and Wildlife
To address concerns of anglers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently submitted fish from Ridgway Reservoir ( [log in for link] ) and the San Miguel River ( [log in for link] ) to be analyzed for metal contaminations. The results showed fish from these bodies of water are safe to eat as long as people follow statewide fish consumption guidelines.

Public concern stemmed from historic mining activity along the Uncompahgre River valley as well as the San Miguel River. CPW aquatic biologist Eric Gardunio heard the longstanding rumors from anglers regarding consumption of fish in these areas and submitted several samples to a state toxicologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as well as CPW's water quality monitoring section.

"One of my responsibilities is to set harvest regulations that are consistent with maintaining quality angling opportunities in our local fisheries," Gardunio said. "Having anglers harvest fish can be a valuable management tool for our agency. It also offers anglers a sustainable source of protein that is healthy to eat. We appreciate our partnership with CDPHE that allows us to ensure that the fisheries where we allow harvest are producing fish that are safe to eat."

CDPHE tested fish tissue for cadmium, copper, zinc and lead. CPW submitted Colorado River cutthroat trout, brown trout and rainbow trout fillets from the San Miguel River. From Ridgway Reservoir, yellow perch, rainbow trout, brown trout and smallmouth bass were sent for testing.

"All of the fish collected in Ridgway Reservoir and on the San Miguel River that CDPHE tested for metals showed very low concentrations in the fish tissue or were non-detect," said Ashley Rust, CPW Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Specialist. "The fish are safe to eat, no concerns."

The CDPHE Toxicology and Environmental Epidemiology Office compared the levels of metals found to health-protective screening levels.

"Based on our analysis, we recommend that people eating fish from these water bodies follow statewide fish consumption guidelines for mercury, which provide adequate protection from all heavy metals we have analyzed to date," CDPHE said in a statement.

CPW regularly monitors all fisheries based on a multitude of factors, including public concerns. Gardunio said he looks forward to working with local anglers and guides to share the positive news that fish from these water bodies are safe for harvest and consumption.

"We appreciate the public's concern over the potential health implications related to eating fish and are excited to announce that the fish from the San Miguel River and Ridgway Reservoir are safe to eat," Gardunio said.

Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife
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