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2004 Routine Monitoring Program for Toxics in Fish:
Year 2 - Estuarine and Marine Waters


Fish and shellfish consumption advisories due to toxic chemical contamination were first announced in New Jersey in the 1980s. Data from Division of Science, Research and Technology (DSRT) studies revealed that unacceptable risks existed for eating certain species of fish and shellfish from some waters in the State. These advisories particularly apply to pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children because polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin and mercury have been shown to cause a number of serious health effects including effects on the immune system, nervous system, developmental problems, and/or cancer. Current advisories are listed on NJDEP’s Website (www.FishSmartEatSmartNJ.org).

New data are needed on a recurring basis to evaluate and adjust advisories as appropriate. Without regular monitoring data, current advisories could be either under or overly protective of human health.

A statewide “Routine Monitoring Program for Toxics in Fish” has been developed by NJDEP/DSRT. The project reported here is Year 2 of the five-year monitoring effort, with most samples collected in 2004. The principal investigator of this project is Dr. Richard Horwitz of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia (ANSP). He and his staff have conducted various research projects on chemical contamination of fish in the region. Dr. Horwitz is highly respected in this area of research and the ANSP is considered one of the regions best independent scientific organizations. A final report with additional detail on the results will be available on the NJDEP/DSRT web site in the near future.


The primary goal of the Routine Monitoring Program is to update the human health consumption advisories for certain foodfish species and/or geographic areas. However, NJDEP recognizes the additional potential usages of these data for such important collateral activities as natural resources management, hazardous site characterization, water quality assessment, natural resource damage claims, and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development. Where possible, the Routine Monitoring Program has been designed in such a way as to meet the Department’s data quality objectives and to maximize benefits for each individual program. The results of this monitoring effort will expand upon the existing contaminant database used to develop fish consumption advisories and identify chemical contaminant levels in Atlantic marine and estuarine species from several waterways throughout the coastal portions of the state.


The scope of work for this project is presented in two tasks. Task I details the baseline status and trends sampling for the coastal region of the State. Task II presents more targeted sampling within the tidal Passaic River and Newark Bay Complex for dioxin/furan analysis to support the Passaic River Directive and the Passaic River/Newark Bay Natural Resource Damage Claim. The latter sampling includes dioxin analyses of samples, more species per site, and additional down bay sampling of the Lower Passaic-Hackensack Rivers, Newark Bay, Raritan Bays, and Sandy Hook Bay.

Task I. Routine Monitoring: Estuarine & Marine Species

The data presented in Task I are for species of estuarine-marine fish/shellfish (striped bass, bluefish, white perch, white catfish, American eel, blue crab and lobster) that are under current consumption advisories on a statewide, regional and/or waterway-specific basis for PCB and/or dioxin contamination. In addition, several other species of recreational or commercial importance were collected. These included weakfish, porgy and Atlantic croaker. Sampling includes alongshore-coastal areas, Delaware Bay and Estuary and Barnegat Bay. Unless specified, all coastal estuarine and marine species were analyzed for PCBs, pesticides and total mercury, as well as lipids. A limited number of samples were also analyzed for PBDEs (flame retardants). All fish species were analyzed as individual fillets (skin off) and all blue crab were analyzed for both muscle meat and hepatopancreas tissues.

Task II. Tidal Passaic River and Downstream Receiving Waters (NRD)

In recognition of the continuing public health advisories associated with dioxin contamination in foodfish and shellfish within the tidal Passaic River and Newark Bay Complex, a separate yet interrelated study was carried out involving the collection of fish/shellfish samples. These locations were sampled differentially for four species; white perch, striped bass, blue crab and American lobster within their preferred ecological zones or habitats. Species and sample location were designed to address multiple program data needs including fish consumption advisories, water quality assessment, contaminated site assessment, natural resource damage claims, TMDLs and resource management concerns.

All fish species were analyzed as individual fillets (skin off) and all blue crab and American lobster composite samples were analyzed for both muscle meat and hepatopancreas tissues. Each tissue (i.e., fillet, muscle, hepatopancreas) were analyzed for dioxins/furans, PCBs (congener and co-planar), organo-chlorinated pesticides, mercury and lipids.

Draft Data

These data should be considered draft and are subject to change until final quality assurance procedures are complete.


Data tables are in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat, please follow this link.

Task I - Data
(2.16mb - 95 pages)

Task II - Data
(2.59mb - 98 pages)









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Copyright State of New Jersey, 1996-2004
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: March 23, 2006