Blue-Green Algae Sparks Fish Consumption Concerns

Blue-green algae has put a damper on all things aquatic at Chautauqua Lake – from beach closures to a concern for consumption of the lake’s fish.

How much blue-green algae toxins accumulate in fish flesh is still under investigation, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. There have been no reports of people becoming sick from eating fish caught during a bloom.

But according to the New York State Department of Health, fish caught in areas with visible algal blooms should not be eaten.

Some states, according to the DEC, have provided precautionary advice on the consumption of fish, especially its organs and skin. It’s recommended that fish are washed with fresh water before cooking and freezing. The New York Freshwater Fishing Guide has advised anglers to stay away from eating fish caught from areas that have the thick paint-like characteristic of blue-green algae blooms.

Blue-green algae has posed a huge problem to Chautauqua Lake. Chautauqua Institution’s four beaches along the lake have been closed since Aug. 7, and the resolution to eliminate the issue is an ongoing process. The algae is present when the water is calm and the surface is undisturbed, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Blue-green algae can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, and other effects. High levels can result in serious illnesses.

The DEC has many ongoing programs that reduce nutrient runoff into New York state waters. The DEC Bureau of Marine Resources has an ongoing, established Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program to search for the presence of toxin-producing marine algae (Alexandrium and other species) and detect marine biotoxins in shellfish, such as clams, mussels and oysters.

The DEC, DOH, NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation are working together to identify and respond to blue-green algae concerns. DEC and DOH are coordinating field personnel to investigate HAB reports. DEC and DOH are also conducting research to learn more about blue-green algae HABs and evaluate their risks to public health and the environment.

As of Friday, four Chautauqua Lake beaches remained closed due to blue-green algae, while three others were seasonally closed. The four beaches closed due to algae were Bemus Point, Children’s (Chautauqua Institution), College Pier (Chautauqua Institution) and Lakewood Village Beach. Those closed for the season were Mayville’s Lakeside Park, Heinz (Chautauqua Institution) and University (Chautauqua Institution).

For more information regarding blue-green algae, visit www.dec.ny.gov.