NEW FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORIES ARE OUT: ARE THE FISH YOU CATCH SAFE TO EAT AND FEED TO YOUR FAMILIES?
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Last month, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released its annual fish consumption advisories, which highlight the state’s recommended limits on the consumption of different species of fish found in Alabama’s rivers and streams. There were 216 fish consumption advisories issued in Alabama, 22 of which were in the Coosa River watershed.
For this year’s update, fish were gathered from the Alabama, Coosa, Escatawpa, Tallapoosa and Tennessee watersheds. They were then tested to determine which fish from those rivers contain levels of contamination hazardous to the health of Alabamians when consumed. After catching and testing certain types of fish, the state issues consumption advisories to warn anglers NOT to consume fish that are contaminated with dangerous pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury. Many of the advisories warn not to eat any fish from the specific waterbody, while others recommend limiting exposure to one or two meals per month. Currently, no state agency is required by law to test fish tissue or post signage warning of harmful contaminants.
For the past 10 years, Coosa Riverkeeper and other conservation groups across Alabama have collaborated to amplify and publicize the results to anglers throughout the state through education campaigns, social media, special events, surveys, and more.
The state’s fish consumption advisory program is the program at the heart of The SHOR Act, which was introduced with bipartisan support, and passed both the House and Senate in 2023. The SHOR Act would codify this program, requiring it to take place each year. The bill would also create a Blue Ribbon Fish Consumption Advisory Panel to meet annually to continue to improve the program for the health and safety of all Alabamians. Groups like Coosa Riverkeeper, Alabama Rivers Alliance, Conservation Alabama and Waterkeepers Alabama feel that there are other areas in which this program could be improved, such as more frequent testing of the fish and expanding sampling for PFAS/PFOS.
ABOUT THE 2023 ADVISORIES
In total, there are 216 health advisories across the state. While 20 advisories recommend NOT to confirm ANY fish from those waterbodies, the majority of the advisories (67%) were issued specifically for largemouth bass — the most sought-after game fish in Alabama and, ironically, the official State Freshwater Fish of Alabama. The number of advisories by river basin are as follows:
Alabama – 6
Black Warrior – 19
Cahaba – 5
Coosa – 22
Mobile / Gulf Coast – 50
Choctawhatchee & Coastal Plain – 50
Tennessee – 38
Tombigbee – 26
HOW TO CALL BEFORE YOU CAST
The statewide toll-free Fish Guide hotline has been updated to feature the 2023 advisories, broken down by watershed. This service, hosted by Coosa Riverkeeper, allows anglers to immediately hear the advisories throughout Alabama. The hotline is available in both English and Spanish. Anglers can simply call 1 844-219-RISK (7475) to hear the current fish consumption advisories on all the waterbodies throughout Alabama.
To learn more about the toxins in our fish and rivers, and for more information about FISH GUIDE, please visit www.coosariver.org/fishguide, www.alabamarivers.org/
To learn more about The SHOR Act, please visit www.ALShorAct.com.