A Fish Consumption Survey of the Umatilla, Nez Perce, Yakama, and Warm Springs Tribes of the Columbia River Basin

During the fall and winter of 1991-1992, a survey was conducted among Columbia River Basin Indian tribes to determine the level and nature of fish consumption among individual tribal members. The survey was initiated to test the hypotheses that Indians in that region consume more fish than non-Indians, that the national fish consumption rate of 6.5 grams per day (gpd) used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to develop human health based water quality criteria might not be applicable to tribal members, and that a human health risk might exist among tribal members from exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin) and other waterborne toxic contaminants. We also wished to consider whether water quality standards based on the estimated national fish consumption rate and adopted for waters in the Columbia River Basin were appropriate with regard to the findings of the survey. The survey consisted of interviews made at four Columbia River Basin tribal reservations (Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Yakama and Umatilla) and was based on a stratified random sampling design. A total of 513 tribal members at least 18 years old were directly surveyed. These respondents also provided information for 204 children age 5 or younger. Information obtained included a breakdown of consumption by age group, season, species consumed, parts of the fish consumed, preparation methods, and changes in patterns of consumption over time and during ceremonies and festivals. Survey respondents aged 18 and older consumed an average of 58.7 gpd while children aged 5 and younger consumed an average of 19.6 gpd. These rates are respectively, approximately nine times and three times higher than the estimated national fish consumption rate and seriously call into question the applicability and adequacy of using a national fish consumption rate to protect tribal members' health. Both adults and children consumed salmon and resident trout more than any other fish species. The fish fillet and skin were, overall, the two most consumed fish parts but respondents also consumed the head, eggs, bones and organs of almost all fish species consumed. Although this consumption data signals a potential increased health risk to tribal members, consumption data alone does not tell us the extent to which tribal members are exposed to waterborne toxics. Consequently, as phase two of this project, information in this report will be combined with data on fish tissue contaminant levels in fish collected and consumed from Columbia River Basin tribal fisheries.




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