Reviewed by: Pat Byington
Go fish! (But do it safely.) In July 2023, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issued their fish consumption advisories, and Black Warrior Riverkeeper is on a mission to make sure Alabamians know the importance of the guidelines. Here’s what they have to say.
On the Black Warrior River
Out of the 216 advisories for fishing through the state, 19 were for the Black Warrior River. These advisories are a result of careful testing of fish throughout Alabama. They warn Alabamians about fish containing hazardous pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury.
These guidelines are intended to keep Alabama safe while still enjoying the age-old pastime.
“Fishing is a great tradition in Alabama, connecting generations to our abundant waterways and contributing to our massive outdoor recreation industry. We are proud to promote fishing while working with partners to help folks make informed decisions about eating certain fish they catch.”Charles Scribner, executive director, Black Warrior Riverkeeper
You can find the updated guidelines here, which include recommended fish consumption levels for fish from waterways all over the state including the Black Warrior River.
Bass lovers, beware
A large number of the health advisories issued by the ADPH were for the official State Freshwater Fish of Alabama, largemouth bass.
According to the ADPH fish consumption guidelines, Alabama residents should limit their intake of this popular catch due to the levels of mercury they contain.
The guidelines recommend limiting Black Warrior River largemouth bass consumption to two meals per month, with one meal being about eight ounces (raw). As a visual, the guidelines say that an eight-ounce portion size looks about like two decks of playing cards.
In addition, for at-risk individuals (such as babies, children under 14 and pregnant + nursing women), the ADPH has issued statewide guidelines, which include:
- No king mackerel, shark, swordfish, or tilefish
- Maximum 6 ounces of white tuna per week (less for young children)
- Maximum 12 ounces a week (about 2 meals) of low-in-mercury fish + shellfish (less for young children)
The Coosa Riverkeeper also hosts a community hotline that contains all the guidelines in both English and Spanish, which you can access at (844)219-7475.
Progress for the fish consumption advisory program
ADPH’s fish consumption advisory program is the focus of the Safe & Healthy Outdoor Recreation Act (SHOR Act). The act, which the House and Senate both passed the act in 2023, would codify the fish consumption advisory program, making it a yearly requirement.
The bill would create a Blue Ribbon Fish Consumption Advisory Panel, which would work to improve this important program.
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