Fish consumption rate: Technical support document

Washington faces new and lingering toxic threats from contaminated surface water and sediments. As we seek to reduce these threats, how should we protect residents who eat fish and shellfish from Washington's waters? How should we protect communities that rely on fish and shellfish for a large portion of their diet?

In 2013, we produced a technical support document to help answer these questions. The report evaluates available data on Washington residents’ fish consumption. It identifies how much fish people are actually eating. This information is critical for setting standards that protect the quality of surface waters — and for cleaning up contaminated sediments beneath them. (Read the technical document and attachments).

For more information on water quality standards for protecting human health (including fish consumption rates), see Water Quality Standards for Surface Waters of the State of Washington (Chapter 173-201A WAC)


Washington’s freshwater and saltwater resources offer a tremendous benefit to people. Each year, residents and visitors catch large quantities of finfish and shellfish for recreational and commercial purposes. Many residents eat seafood harvested from Washington's waters. Tribal populations have treaty fishing rights. Harvesting and eating seafood plays a significant role in their cultures. Finfish and shellfish are culturally important and part of a healthy diet.

Why do we need to know about fish consumption?

Persistent chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and mercury can accumulate in fish tissue and harm the health of people who consume fish. Children and other sensitive populations can be especially vulnerable, as well as adults who eat large amounts of finfish or shellfish. In order to set water quality and sediment cleanup standards that protect human health, we need to know how much fish Washington residents are eating.

How did we learn more about fish consumption in Washington?

In 2009, Ecology began reviewing fish consumption rates for updating environmental cleanup regulations.

In October 2011, we produced a draft fish consumption technical support document. We received several hundred comments and revised the draft based on that input. We did additional analyses and gathered more information to support a second revised technical support document.

On January 15, 2013, we published Fish Consumption Rates: Technical Support Document (Version 2.0 Final) with six supporting attachments. Read the January 15, 2013, letter that accompanied its release. 

Review the public comments and responses that helped shape this report

The report is the culmination of years of work. Ecology staff and technical experts collaborated with federal, state, and local agencies; tribal governments; citizen and business organizations; and individual citizens and businesses. They all helped shape the final report through their comments and responses.

Draft Technical Support Document (draft Version 1.0) released for public comment October 2011:

Draft Technical Support Document (draft Version 2.0) released for public comment August 30, 2012:

Final Technical Support Document (final Version 2.0) released January 15, 2013:

Where can you learn more about fish consumption?