How safe are Lake Erie fish to serve in restaurants?

CLEVELAND -- They're a restaurant favorite -- Lake Erie perch and walleye.

But are some toxins found in the water safe to eat in the fish?

The owner of the Blue Door Bakery and Cafe in Cuyahoga Falls pulled walleye off his menu over concern for contamination.

But most other area restaurants say the lake is healthier than ever.

Joe Mokry is the executive chef at Don's Lighthouse Grille in Cleveland.

He's also an avid fisherman who keeps a close eye on the quality of Lake Erie and its fish -- not only for himself but for customers.

"If it comes in the back door, and we're are not going to eat it ourselves, we're not going to charge our customers for it," said Mokry.

With the warm temperatures comes concern about microscopic organisms that multiply to form harmful algae blooms that release toxins into the water.

The concern also grows as extreme storms force raw sewage into the lake.

It's enough to stop some Clevelanders from eating Lake Erie fish.

"As the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, there is always going to be residual effects from the pollution of decades ago," said Cher Bourne at Edgewater Park.

But the owner of Catanese Classic Seafood disagrees.

From now through November the company will catch, process and distribute close to 1 million pounds of yellow perch to some of Cleveland's finest restaurants, including Blue Point Grille and The Ritz Carlton.

The Ohio EPA puts the fish through three rigorous testing sites.

"They see what they're eating, the health of the population and make sure everything is fine for the public to eat," said John Catanese.

The Ohio EPA recommends eating yellow perch just two meals per week.

To reduce contaminants, they suggest trimming off the skin and fat.

For Don's Lighthouse -- it's a specialty favorite along with the walleye.

"We do seafood, we better do walleye and do it right," said Mokry.

The walleye quota has recently increased by 20 percent, according to Catanese.

That's because the lake and walleye are healthy enough to catch and eat more of this year.

Catanese says perch have remained the same.


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