The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has issued fish consumption advisories on 32 state lakes because of mercury levels in fish.
The agency issues such advisories each year. DEQ is not suggesting that anglers shouldn't eat fish from the 32 lakes, but cautions that quantities should be limited.
Some species of fish in the 32 lakes tested high enough for mercury to be considered unsafe for “unlimited consumption,” according to the news release from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
“Unless you are somebody who lives on fish, that it's a huge part of your diet, several times a week, for the most part it's not a big deal,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Children and pregnant women are advised to eat less fish from the lakes because they are considered a “sensitive population” more at risk.
“Obviously, children and pregnant women should follow these guidelines,” Gilliland said.
DEQ recommends that women of child bearing age and children 15 and younger should eat no more than one meal per week of largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, white, striped or hybrid bass and walleye, saugeye and flathead catfish from the listed lakes.
Typically, the older and larger predator fish have higher levels of mercury, Gilliland said. People can safely eat fish from the listed lakes as long as they do so in moderation, he said.
“You certainly want to be careful, but for the most part it's not something that should scare people,” he said. “People just need to pay attention to the advisories and I think they will be OK.”
The lakes with fish consumption advisories are Atoka, Boomer, Broken Bow, Canton, Carlton, Cedar, Clayton, Coalgate City Lake, Draper, Dripping Springs, Elmer Thomas, Fort Supply, Hugo, Kaw, Carl Albert, Carl Blackwell, Eufaula, Heyburn, Nanih Waiya, Ozzie Cobb, Talwanda No. 2, Wayne Wallace, Church Lake, McAlester City Lake, McGee Creek, Pine Creek, Quanah Parker, Rush, Sardis, Schooler, Skiatook and Wister.
Fish consumption recommendations for each lake can be found at www.deq.state.ok.us/CSDnew/fish/index.htm
More lakes are added to the fish consumption advisories each year because the Wildlife Department and DEQ keeps checking more lakes for mercury levels in fish, Gilliland said.
“The list keeps growing basically because we are sampling more bodies of water,” he said.
The mercury levels are not the result of local pollution but coal burning industrial plants across the globe, he said.
“There is not a pipeline dumping something in these lakes that is causing the problem,” Gilliland said. “It's more of a global issue. A huge percentage of the mercury that winds up in our lakes falls out of the sky when it rains and falls out of the atmosphere because of things going on in China and India.”