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Public Health Fish Consumption Advisory for Five Cape Cod National Seashore Ponds

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Date: December 19, 2007
Contact: Stephen Prokop, Chief Ranger, 508 349 3785 ext. 213
Contact: Carrie Phillips, Natural Resources Chief, 508 349 3785 ext. 216

Health officials in Wellfleet and Truro and Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price announce that they were notified this week by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) of a fish consumption advisory at Dyer Pond and Long Pond in Wellfleet and Great Pond, Snow Pond, and Slough Pond in Truro. The MDPH advisory is based on average fish-sampling results from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that showed that mercury in fish from these three ponds was at or above the Food and Drug Administration’s Action Level for mercury of 1.0 mg/kg. Fish from the other two ponds sampled, Gull and Herring in Wellfleet, were below state advisory standards for mercury. 

Mercury may accumulate in people who frequently eat fish contaminated with mercury thus leading to an increased risk of health effects. Because of health concerns associated with exposure to mercury, the MDPH recommends the general public not consume any fish from Dyer Pond and Long Pond in Wellfleet and Great Pond, Snow Pond, and Slough Pond in Truro. Fishing is still allowed in the ponds, but fish should be released and not consumed. Although mercury can accumulate in fish to levels that are sometimes thousands of times greater than the surrounding waters, this metal’s concentration in actual pond water is predictably very low. Therefore, swimming, boating, and handling of fish are not likely to expose individuals to elevated levels of mercury. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health had previously (in 1994 and 2001) advised against freshwater fish consumption by pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, because of observed mercury contamination in pond fish throughout the state.                    

On-going sampling for mercury in Outer Cape ponds is conducted by DEP, at the request of a team of US Geological Survey and National Park Service scientists who are studying the atmospheric deposition of mercury, and its accumulation in lakes, on both east and west US coasts. 

Cape Cod National Seashore offers the following specific information regarding the public health freshwater fish consumption advisory issued for seashore ponds by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

Dyer Pond in Wellfleet: No one should consume any fish from this pond.
Great Pond in Truro: Children younger than 12 years of age, pregnant women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, and nursing mothers should not eat any fish from this pond. The general public should limit consumption of all fish from this pond to two meals per month.
Long Pond in Wellfleet: No one should consume any fish from this pond.
Slough Pond in Truro: Children younger than 12 years of age, pregnant women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, and nursing mothers should not eat any fish from this pond. The general public should limit consumption of all fish from this pond to two meals per month.
Snow Pond in Truro: Children younger than 12 years of age, pregnant women, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, and nursing mothers should not eat large mouth bass from this pond. The general public should limit consumption of large mouth bass to two meals per month.

- NPS -

Did You Know?

seasonal freshwater wetlands in the Province Lands

135 acres of seasonal freshwater wetlands exist across the dune landscape of Cape Cod National Seashore's Province Lands. These wetlands which typically dry down by mid-summer, support plants, serve as breeding areas for Spadefoot and Fowler’s toads, and provide drinking water for wildlife.