NJ Food Supply is all about the food industry in the Garden State, and though it may not seem to fit into the term “industry”, the recreational fishing done within our lakes and rivers, as well as our coastline, feeds a whole lot of people.  As such, there are some precautions one should take on account of all the contaminants found within our waters.  These are advisories directly from the NJDEP’s most recent reports, which are the result of rigorous testing throughout the state.  Let’s begin.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

General Guidelines:

  • Eat smaller amounts of several different types of fish rather than large amounts of one high in contaminants.
  • Eat smaller fish because contaminants build up in the tissue over time.
  • Avoid subsistence fishing, fishing that one uses to provide the bulk of their caloric needs.
  • Fish further west or north in the state, away from cities.  These waters have higher concentrations of “no restrictions” fish as pertaining to consumption frequency.  Examples include: Lake Tappan, Lake Hopatcong, Lake Musconetcong; and counties such as Sussex, Bergen, Passaic, Warren, Mercer, and Burlington.


  • Mercury– detrimental to the human central nervous system
  • PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls)– production stopped in 1979, possible cause of cancer
  • Dioxin– probable human carcinogen
  • PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate)– crosses the placenta making it doubly harmful to pregnant women

Cleaning and Cooking Recommendations:

Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images
  • Proper cleaning and cooking may result in a 50% drop in PCB levels.
  • Cook using a method that allows fats and juices to drip away.
  • Avoid batter and breading.  The coating traps drippings in.
  • Do not reuse fryer oil or drippings.
  • Discard the juices rather than pouring them back on the fish to baste.
  • Do not use heads, skins, or trimmed fatty portions.  Discard them.  Contaminants are higher in the head and fatty portions of the fish.


Eating, selling, or taking of blue crabs from Newark Bay Complex or tidal Passaic River is prohibited.

The recommendations for preparing and consuming crab are a little simpler than with fish. 

  • The bulk of contaminants in crabs are found in the hepatopancreas, an organ referred to as the tomalley or green gland.
  • Chill and break the crab immediately prior to cooking.  Do not cook the crab whole.
  • Remove ALL the green gland before cooking.
  • Cook using any method you want, but if applicable, discard the cooking water, and do not use the tomalley or cooking water for sauces, etc.

Follow these recommendations when fishing the waters around the state.  We are lucky enough to have an abundance of beautiful and fruitful spots, so it should not deter you from fishing and eating what you catch.  Just be mindful of the fact that New Jersey has a long history of industry, and though much has been improved (Mercury levels reduced by 90% since the 90’S), much remains in some places that could harm your health. 

A full list of species and locations tested can be found at the NJ Dept. of Health website:


Do not think that the absence of a location or species means “contaminant free”. It just means that the location or species was not tested.