The Alabama Department of Public Health is recommending that folks who love to fish and eat their catch, to significantly limit their consumption of fish from Weiss Lake and the Coosa River.
The advisory suggests that largemouth bass be avoided altogether because of potential mercury contamination and recommends not eating more than one meal per month of striped bass from the Coosa River around Weiss Lake.
Nathan Aycock, a fisheries biologist in Alabama, said that the consumption advisories don’t have much impact on fishing.
“The vast majority fishing for largemouth bass are practicing catch and release. They’re not taking them home to eat,” Aycock said.
Aycock believes the mercury issue in the largemouth bass is the result of a bio-accumulation of the contaminant across the entire river basin.
“Lots of water bodies are impaired by mercury,” Aycock said. “As the mercury accumulates up the food chain it becomes more concentrated.”
Alabama updates fish consumption advisories based on data collected the previous fall by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The new report also includes recommendations for limited consumption of catfish and crappie in Lake Weiss due to the continuing presence of PCBs. The state suggests no more than one meal per month of blue catfish, channel catfish, and no more than one meal per week of black crappie.
PCBs are thought to be byproduct from the General Electric Medium Transformer plant in Rome that has been closed for more than 22 years. PCBs were banned by the federal government 40 years ago.
A meal portion consists of 6 ounces of cooked fish or 8 ounces of raw fish.
Exposure to PCBs can be reduced by the way fish are prepared. The potentially cancerous compound is found in the fatty parts of fish. To reduce exposure to them remove head and all guts, remove the skin and trim all fat. Don’t fry the fish, but broil, bake, poach, or boil your fish so the fatty juices drip away.
Updated consumption advisories issued for the 40 bodies of water tested can be found on the ADPH website at alabamapublichealth.gov/tox/fish-advisories.html.