St. Martin

May 13, 2011 12:09 AM by Maddie Garrett

Something in the Water: Part 2

Roughly half of all Louisiana lakes, rivers and bayous have a mercury or chemical advisory when it comes to eating fish. But getting people to pay attention to the health risks and following the State's recommendations has its challenges.

For many anglers, their favorite past time or lifestyle started decades ago.

"Since I was eight. Serious fisherman at eight, playing in the water before that," said Kevin Butler.

"Well I've been fishing since I was 14 or 15," said Charles Kibbe

Fishermen Charles Kibbe and Kevin Butler say they both know about the mercury and chemical warnings in the waters they fish.

"Yeah I'm aware of it but it's not really a big concern. We don't keep enough, you know eat enough to bother," said Kibbe.

But it doesn't take much to put you or family's health at risk. The Department of Health and Hospitals Medical Director Dr. Jimmy Guidry said for most advisory waters you should only eat four servings, or two pounds of fish a month. And the servings are even less for women of child bearing age and children."

"In young people, when there's a developing nervous system, it gets damaged, it doesn't repair by just stopping eating (fish). So it's critical for young people that we pay attention to these species and how much they eat," said Dr. Guidry.

But the real question is, do people follow these consumption advisories?

"We have some people out here that do this for a living on a daily basis so at least two or three times a week. So I think they may not follow the guide lines so much as others," said Butler.

Fishing expert Jim Davidson believes most anglers know the warnings but probably won't change their habits.

"You're not going to change the attitude, because they've been doing it for hundreds of years down here. And you know the old saying, it didn't hurt my grandmama and my grandma and my mom so i'm going to do it," said Davidson.

"I've been eating fish from out of the basin for so long and I get regular check-ups from the doctor and haven't had any problems," said Butler.

For mercury it's simply a matter of watching what you eat by limiting certain larger species like Drumm, Bowfin and Large Mouth Bass that retain more mercury.

"The big bass probably full of mercury, hardly anybody keeps those. People I fish with, that all goes back into the water," said Kibbe.

Other chemicals, like dioxins and PCB's, can be avoided by how you clean the fish.

"Those fatty areas are going to hold more of whatever is good and bad for that fish. So you get rid of that, and most guys do that when they clean it they filet the fish out it's just the meat. I think it reduces the amount of contaminates you're taking in your body," said Davidson.

While the steps seem simple, it's personal choice that makes the difference.

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