Baton Rouge – The Louisiana Departments of Health and Hospitals, Environmental Quality and Wildlife and Fisheries today issued a series of fish consumption advisories for 10 bodies of water. In addition, the agencies have revised four other existing advisories that either expand the current geographical boundaries of the waterways or add cautions about consuming other fish.
Advisories are issued because of unacceptable levels of mercury that have been detected in freshwater fish species. Fish advisories are issued as precautions. On a regular basis, fish sampling is carried out by the Department of Environmental Quality. LDH 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.
The full text for each advisory can be found at www.oph.dhh.state.la.us or by calling toll-free: 1-888-293-7020.
Because of mercury contamination, there are now fish consumption advisories for 29 waterways in Louisiana and one for the Gulf of Mexico. For all areas under advisory, DHH’s Office of Public Health recommends limiting consumption of all fish species (unless the species has been specifically addressed in the advisory) to four meals per month. This is a change from previous advisories that did not list limits for fish other than those specified in the advisory.
Louisiana fish consumption advisories are based on the estimate that the average resident eats four fish meals per month (1 meal = ½ pound). Consuming more than four meals of fish a month from local water bodies may increase health risks. Citizens are asked to contact OPH at 1-888-293-7020 for more information about eating fish that contain mercury or other chemicals.
Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the environment. It is released into the environment through natural processes and human activities. 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 methyl-mercury than smaller fish. Therefore, in general, it is recommended that smaller fish be consumed instead of larger ones.
Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer, said people are exposed throughout their lives to low levels of mercury.
"One way in which we are exposed to mercury is from eating contaminated fish. Health effects from harmful levels of mercury can include nervous system and kidney damage," Guidry said. "Women of childbearing age, pregnant women (especially in the first trimester), children less than seven years of age and developing fetuses are more sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury. Therefore, consumption advisories are issued at lower fish tissue concentration levels for these groups."
"In 1995, Louisiana only had one mercury-in-fish advisory. We are pleased that the state’s Mercury Program has provided the needed resources to test our waterways and alert the fishing public to the health problems of eating contaminated fish," said Dr. Barry Kohl, Louisiana Audubon Council.
The mercury advisories are not mandatory and are issued only as a precaution in the interests of public health and safety. DEQ posts signs at public boat ramps on the affected waterways to further alert fisherman about the advisories.
Previously Issued Fish Advisories