DON’T EAT THE FISH: Freshwater bass in California and Arizona lakes accumulating dangerous mercury levels

Thursday, August 4, 2016
By Paul Martin

by: Isabelle Z.
Thursday, August 04, 2016

Authorities are warning that bass at several of the most popular fishing destinations in Arizona and California have accumulated excessive mercury levels.

In California, 180 reservoirs are contaminated with high mercury levels. The State Water Resources Control Board took fish samples from more than 300 of the state’s reservoirs to make that determination. The board is now urging the reservoirs’ owners to post voluntary warnings about eating the fish that are at the top of the food chain, such as bass. These fish tend to accumulate the most mercury, posing a particular risk to children and pregnant women.

Even though the warnings are intended to help protect human life, those who depend on the income brought by tourists and sportsmen to the bodies of water in question are reluctant to post voluntary warnings and draw attention to the matter.

Big Bear Lake, which is nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, welcomes millions of visitors each year for recreational activities that include not only fishing but also sailing and jet skiing. Some anglers believe that the bass are being unfairly singled out in an effort to protect the endangered and native species they consume. On the other hand, one real estate agent in Big Bear points out that mercury advisories could adversely affect property values, saying that he would not be opposed to getting rid of the bass altogether to skirt the problem.

Other reservoirs that have been classified as “mercury impaired” include Irvine Lake, Lake Hodges, Silverwood Lake, El Capitan Reservoir, Lake Arrowhead, Crowley Lake, and the aptly named Bass Lake. It was Sherwood Lake in Ventura County, however, where the highest levels of methylmercury in Southern California were found. Bass there measured 0.65 milligrams of methylmercury per kilogram.

A statewide mercury control program is currently being developed by state water authorities in conjunction with nine different local water quality control boards, but mandatory health advisories are said to be at least two years away.

Mercury consumption dangerous for humans

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