Science, policy, stakeholders, and fish consumption advisories: Developinga fish fact sheet for the Savannah River

J. Burger et al., Science, policy, stakeholders, and fish consumption advisories: Developinga fish fact sheet for the Savannah River, ENVIR MANAG, 27(4), 2001, pp. 501-514
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Journal title
ISSN journal
0364-152X → ACNP
Year of publication
501 - 514
SICI code
In recent years there has been a startling rise in the issuance of fish con sumption advisories. Unfortunately, compliance by the public is often low. Low compliance can be due to a number of factors, including confusion over the meaning of advisories, conflicting advisories issued by different agenc ies, controversies involving health benefits versus the risks from consumin g fish, and an unwillingness to act on the advisories because of personal b eliefs. In some places, such as along the Savannah River, one state (South Carolina) had issued a consumption advisory, while the other (Georgia) had not, although at present, both states now issue consumption advisories for the Savannah River. Herein we report on the development of a fish fact shee t to address the confusing and conflicting information available to the pub lic about consuming fish from the Savannah River. The process involved inte rviewing fishers to ascertain fishing and consumption patterns, evaluating contaminant levels and exposure pathways, discussing common grounds for the provision of information, and consensus-building among different regulator y agencies (US Environmental Protection Agency, South Carolina Department o f Health and Environmental Control, Georgia Department of Natural Resources ) and the Department of Energy. Consensus, a key ingredient in solving many different types of "commons" problems, was aided by an outside organizatio n, the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP ). The initial role for CRESP was to offer scientific data as a basis for g roups with different assumptions about risks to reach agreement on a regula tory response action. The process was an example of how credible science ca n be used to implement management and policies and provide a basis for cons ensus-building on difficult risk communication issues. The paper provides s everal lessons for improving the risk process from stakeholder conflicts, t hrough risk assessment, to risk management. It also suggests that consensus -building and risk communication are continuing processes that involve assi milation of new information on contaminants and food chain processes, state and federal law, public policy, and public response.