Mercury in fish has remained a concern in South Carolina since the early 90s, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
With the exception of a few natural sources, mercury finds its way into fish after chemicals are released into the environment via emissions, trash burning and runoff. Sad, but if we did more to reduce and police our effects on the environment, we could probably one day fish our rivers without having to throw back.
Under current advisories from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there are several types of fish that should never be consumed when caught in certain areas and several types of fish in which consumption should be limited.
For example, in regards to the Edisto River, DHEC currently advises the following:
- Do not eat any: bowfin (mudfish), largemouth bass, channel catfish, chain pickerel or flathead catfish.
- Only one meal per week: black crappie, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish.
- One mean per month: blue catfish
What risks are there for not following the advisories?
In severe cases, too much mercury in the body can cause a religious experience - you will meet your maker. Specifically, mercury affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and can cause impairment of vision; pain around joints, feet, hands and mouth; can cause speech impairment; muscle failure; skin rashes; mood swings; memory loss and a larger variety of mental illnesses.
Babies, children under 14, women nursing, women pregnant and women attempting to become pregnant run a much higher risk of mercury poisoning and are advised to avoid consumption of any food that may contain mercury.
You folks that like large portion sizes are in trouble too - the larger the fish, the higher the probability of contaminants.
South Carolina is not the only state with mercury advisories. According to DHEC, most states now have restrictions on fish consumption as it relates to mercury levels.
One should research mercury advisories in other states before planning a fishing trip.
Not sure how the rest of you feel, but this weighs heavy on my heart. It hurts me to think that we are losing or have already lost one of the original food sources provided by mother nature. At what point do we change our habits, reduce our effects on the environment and begin to once again enjoy nature's treasure without fear of death?