Fish Consumption Advisory Process

Fish Consumption Advisories

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the state agency responsible for collecting fish tissue and testing for contaminants. The NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) uses the data on contaminant concentrations to set fish consumption advisories. Fish tissue testing can be requested by the DEQ, by local health departments, or during a public health evaluation at a hazardous waste location. 

Conceptual diagram of North Carolina fish consumption advisory setting and communication process

To set these advisories NC DHHS uses the fish tissue data along with general information and some assumptions about the types and amounts of fish eaten by the average person, to assess health risk. NC DHHS sometimes take subsistence fish consumers into account as well. If the agency identifies a significant health risk for a group of people as a result of eating certain types of fish, then NC DHHS will issue a fish consumption advisory for that body of water, with corresponding limits to how much of each type of fish can be eaten, each week.


In March 2019, the North Carolina Fish Forum was hosted by UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and the Duke Superfund-Community Engagement Core to bring together stakeholders involved in issuing and communicating Fish Consumption Advisories. Our goal was to discuss opportunities and challenges for improving the fish consumption advisory process in North Carolina. We are currently working on a white paper (an official publication) with recommendations–stay tuned for updates!

Visual Summary of Fish Forum 2019 by Mike “Muddy” Schlegel