Great Lakes Consortium Fish Consumption Advisory Enhancement: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Great Lakes Consortium Fish Consumption Advisory Enhancement
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant

In 2010, the Great Lakes Consortium for Fish Consumption Advisories began work on a grant to support enhanced fish consumption advisory programs in the Great Lakes basin. The project, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), includes collaborative work by all member-states of the Consortium, and projects in partnership with Cornell and Clarkson Universities. Project activities was completed in 2014. The project had three main objectives:

Objective 1: Improve the public’s understanding of risks and benefits of consuming fish by effectively communicating fish advisory information.

Objective 2: Improve fish monitoring by producing comparable data basin-wide, and filling data gaps for non-routine contaminants of concern and nutrients in fish fillets.

Objective 3: Evaluate Risks and Benefits of Consuming Fish.

Completed Reports

Fish Consumption Advisory Assessment was undertaken to:
(1) provide Consortium states the information needed to develop a consistent approach to communicating and evaluating FCAs; and
(2) identify barriers to, and opportunities for greater coordination of FCA communication programs.

This assessment is organized into three sections. The first describes similarities and differences in the states’ fish consumption advisory programs. The second identifies factors influencing coordination between the states, and the third provides recommendations for ways in which the states could improve coordination and consistency among their programs.

Licensed Angler Survey of more than 1,700 licensed anglers in seven states was conducted to collect information about current fish consumption behaviors and factors influencing those behaviors among a key population served by FCAs. The report quantifies those behaviors and identifies the factors motivating them. It also assesses FCA awareness among this group, and makes recommendations about fish consumption advisory objectives, content, delivery, and evaluation.

Focus Groups in 2011 included a series of seven focus groups with retirees, urban anglers and women of childbearing age conducted by Cornell University in six Great Lakes states. The purpose of these focus groups was to identify factors that influence consumption of Great Lakes basin fish, including the factors identified with the Theory of Planned Behavior (attitude, perceived control, subjective norms). Focus groups also explored participants’ current sources of information about the risks and benefits of fish consumption, the key messages they have received from those sources.

Survey of New Mothers was conducted among 3,000 women who recently gave birth in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The purpose of the survey was to better understand factors influencing fish consumption behaviors in women of childbearing age and to suggest ways consortium states could improve their advisory communications to this at-risk population. The report quantifies these behaviors, assesses awareness of fish consumption advisories and recommendations, and makes recommendations about fish consumption advisory language, content and delivery.

Seven additional Focus Groups were carried out in six Great Lakes states in 2012 and 2013. These groups – among women of childbearing age and urban anglers – were a continuation of previous work among Cornell University and Consortium states. The purpose of this second set of focus groups was to determine how these two at-risk audiences would interpret and respond to fish consumption advisory materials similar to those used in Consortium states. Given choices of formats and content, focus group participants were asked which materials were most likely to encourage them to follow fish consumption advice, and which formats and guidelines they found easiest to understand. The paper synthesizes the outcome of the focus groups; describes ambiguities and limitations; and makes recommendations for further work that would, “provide a firmer foundation for refining fish consumption advisory programs.” 

The purpose of this "What We Know" report - the final report written under this grant - was to synthesize existing knowledge about effective fish consumption advisory practice. Cornell researchers used two sources of information:

(1) results of a Delphi survey to synthesize the knowledge of Consortium members about the characteristics of effective fish consumption advisory communication, and
(2) a review of the fish consumption advisory literature through 2012 to identify characteristics of effective fish consumption advisory communication. The report cites conclusions about effective fish consumption advisories that are common to both practitioners and the literature, and topics for advisory messages about which practitioners and the literature agreed.


Connelly N, Lauber T, Niederdeppe J, Knuth B. How can more women of childbearing age be encouraged to follow fish consumption recommendations? Environmental Research, 135 + (2014) 88-94.

Several studies show that most women do not consume enough fish during pregnancy (and afterward) to derive the maximum health benefits for themselves and their babies, according to the USDA guidelines. We engaged in a two-part study to better understand what might be done to encourage women of childbearing age to eat healthy fish—a mail survey of women who recently gave birth in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and six focus groups with women of childbearing age living in the Great Lakes region. Similar to other studies, we found that many women changed their behavior and consumed less fish during pregnancy than before. Most women reported receiving information, primarily during pregnancy, about the types of fish and how much fish to eat. As a result, increasing access to information during pregnancy likely would not result in increasing many women's fish consumption. Based on our examination of factors influencing women to try to follow the recommendations, the strongest connection with trying to follow the recommendations was receiving enough information to decide and believing that eating fish was good for the baby. Focus group participants also reported that messages about the specific health benefits of fish consumption for their children were particularly influential. These findings suggest that refining messages through testing might be a valuable approach toward increasing women's consumption of less-contaminated fish.

Updated Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 01:01PM