Do you fish in the Cahaba? Here’s what you need to know about where fish is unsafe to eat.


In July, the Alabama Department of Public Health released its annual fish consumption advisories, a list of the state’s recommended limits on eating different types of fish found in Alabama’s rivers and streams.

The department catches and tests certain types of fish and then issues advisories to anglers not to eat fish or limiting consumption of fish that are contaminated with dangerous pollutants. One hundred and thirty two advisories were issued across 98 waterbodies in Alabama.

Three of these advisories occurred in the Cahaba River, and all of these advisories were due to mercury, an airborne pollutant caused by the burning of fossil fuels, as is done by coal-fired power plants, and the burning of waste.

Fish consumption advisories for the Cahaba River have increased in recent years. In 2016, none of the Cahaba sampling locations detected mercury problems.  In the 2018 and 2019 Fish Consumption Advisories, THREE of FOUR sampling locations detected enough mercury to warrant limitations on consumption.

There are only four locations along the entire length of the Cahaba where fish tissue is monitored, while our neighboring Black Warrior River is monitored in over twice as many locations per square mile. Given the limited area designated for these advisories and the widespread air deposition source of the mercury, we think it would be prudent for the Alabama Department of Public Health to consider extending the fish consumption advisory to the entire Cahaba River until more extensive fish-tissue sampling can show that the mercury contamination is not more widespread.

Fishing is a popular activity along the Cahaba, and many anglers rely on this food source to supplement their family’s diet. These people deserve to know whether the fish that they are eating are safe.

 

Here are the current fish consumption advisories for the Cahaba River:

Area Species of Fish Advisory Pollutant
AL Highway 219 (Bibb County) Spotted Bass No more than 2 meals/month Mercury
AL Highway 183 (Perry County) Spotted Bass Do not eat Mercury
Lake Purdy Reservoir Largemouth Bass No more than 1 meal/month Mercury

 

Click on the map below or click here to see a map of the areas effected by fish consumption advisories.

Our partners at Coosa Riverkeeper and Alabama Rivers Alliance have updated their popular FISH GUIDE program to include the 2019 advisories. FISH GUIDE was developed over several years as a response to surveys conducted with more than 125+ fishermen on the Coosa River to educate fishermen throughout the state and alert them to the fish consumption advisories in their watershed. In addition to providing fishermen with supplementary information about the fish consumption advisories each year, the program also features a toll-free hotline for fishermen to immediately hear the advisories throughout the State.  That hotline has now been updated with the 2019 advisories. Anglers can simply call 1 844-219-RISK to hear the current fish consumption advisories on all the water bodies throughout Alabama. Press 7 to hear consumption advisories specific to the Cahaba.

“These advisories serve as a reminder that our backyard is polluted and potentially dangerous,” Curt Chaffin, policy director at the Alabama Rivers Alliance, said. “The state provides a vital public service by warning folks not to eat our contaminated fish, but we must understand this is a public safety issue. Fishing is a way of life in Alabama — generations of us have made countless memories and supported local economies from getting out on the water. We will always fish in the River State; we just need to make sure Alabamians have the information needed to do it safely.”

To learn more about the toxins in our fish and rivers, and for more information about FISH GUIDE, please visit www.CoosaRiver.org/FishGuide or www.AlabamaRivers.org/FishGuide

 

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