Advisory issued for 6 Louisiana waterways after unacceptable levels of mercury found in fish

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FILE – In this May 16, 2012, file photo, fresh red snapper is iced and ready for sale at Aquila Seafood in Bon Secour, Ala. The group that manages Gulf of Mexico fishing in federal waters says states can keep managing anglers’ catch of red snapper. The popular sport and table fish is still recovering from nearly disastrous overfishing. The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council announced the decision Thursday, April 4, 2019 in Biloxi, Mississippi. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — A consumption advisory has been issued for six bodies of water in Louisiana after unacceptable levels of mercury were detected in fish and shellfish.

The Louisiana Departments of Health, Environmental Quality, and Wildlife and Fisheries issued the advisory on Friday. These most recent advisories include one new warning and updates to five previously issued warnings.

DEQ conducts fish sampling. LDH then uses this data to determine the need for additional advisories or to modify existing advisories. Each advisory lists the specific fish, makes consumption recommendations and outlines the geographic boundaries of the affected waterways.

An advisory has been issued for the following waterways in Louisiana:

Bayou Chene and Bayou Lacassine

  • Includes Bayou Chene from its headwaters near Jennings to its confluence with Bayou Lacassine, and Bayou Lacassine from its headwaters near Lacassine to its confluence with Bayou Misere
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should consume no more than one meal per month* of largemouth bass and bowfin (choupique, grinnel) combined from the advisory area; OR should consume no more than two meals per month of crappie, freshwater drum (gaspergou), smallmouth buffalo and warmouth combined from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older: no advisory

Bayou Nezpique

  • From the headwaters of Bayou Nezpique to its confluence with the Mermentau River
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should consume no more than one meal per month of largemouth bass and bowfin (choupique, grinnel) combined from the advisory area; OR should consume no more than two meals per month of freshwater drum (gaspergou), crappie, and warmouth combined from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older should consume no more than 3 meals per month of bowfin.

Big Alabama Bayou

  • Includes the Big Alabama Bayou for its entire length from the boat landing at Hwy 975 to its southern end near the Atchafalaya River Pilot Channel
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should not consume flathead catfish. Do not consume more than one meal per month of any other species from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older should consume no more than two meals per month of flathead catfish from the advisory area.

Little Alabama Bayou**

  • Includes Little Alabama Bayou from its headwaters near East Krotz Springs to its confluence with Big Alabama Bayou
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should consume no more than one meal per month of bowfin (choupique, grinnel) and largemouth bass combined from the advisory area; OR should consume no more than three meals per month of black crappie and freshwater drum (gaspergou) combined from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older: no advisory

Calcasieu River Drainage Basin

  • Includes the Calcasieu River from Hwy 26 to the Saltwater barrier north of Lake Charles, the West Fork Calcasieu River, Houston River, Hickory Creek, Beckwith Creek, English Bayou, and Little River
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should consume no more than one meal per month of black crappie, largemouth bass, bowfin (choupique, grinnel), freshwater drum (gaspergou), spotted bass, and flathead catfish combined; OR should consume no more than two meals per month of other species caught from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older should consume no more than three meals per month of largemouth bass, freshwater drum (gaspergou), and bowfin (choupique, grinnel) combined from the advisory area.

Old River (Niblett Bluff in Calcasieu Parish)

  • Includes the Old River from its headwaters to the confluence with the Sabine River
  • Women of childbearing age and children less than 7 years of age should not consume bowfin (choupique, grinnel) or freshwater drum (gaspergou); and should consume no more than one meal per month of any other species from the advisory area.
  • Other adults and children 7 years of age and older should consume no more than two meals per month of freshwater drum (gaspergou) and bowfin (choupique, grinnel) combined

* A meal is considered to be half a pound of fish for adults
** New advisory

Because of mercury contamination, there are now fish consumption advisories for 49 waterways in Louisiana and one for the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana fish consumption advisories are based on the estimate that the average resident eats four meals of fish per month. Consuming more than this from local water bodies may increase health risks.

Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the environment. Consequently, there are small amounts of mercury in the sediments of streams, lakes, rivers and oceans. Nearly all fish contain trace amounts of mercury. They absorb mercury as they feed on aquatic organisms. Larger predator fish contain more mercury than smaller fish. It is recommended that smaller fish be consumed instead of larger ones.

People are exposed to low levels of mercury throughout their lives. Eating contaminated fish is one way we are exposed to mercury. Health effects from harmful levels of mercury can include nervous system and kidney damage. Young children and developing fetuses are more sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury. Therefore, consumption advisories are issued at lower fish tissue concentrations for women of childbearing age and children under 7 years of age.

The full text for each advisory is posted online at www.ldh.la.gov/EatSafeFish or by calling toll-free (888) 293-7020. You may also access the information by downloading the Department of Environmental Quality’s new app which is available through Google Play-DEQ Fish Advisories and the App Store-LA Fish Advisories.

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