Mercury in Fish

August 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

The USGS has released data that show every fish taken from 291 streams across the country showed some level of mercury contamination. Mercury is bad for humans. Mercury poisoning can cause symptoms ranging from depression, to anxiety, headaches, inability to remember or concentrate, madness as in “Mad as a Hatter,” Alzheimer-like symptoms, Schizophrenia, and, hallucinations. Every one of which I display on a regular basis.

I had no sooner read the announcement when I felt my face flush. That sent me into a real tailspin; momentarily I thought maybe that the feeling was coming from my mercury rising. My wife the nurse assured me that it was simply my blood pressure spiking.

Quite frankly the fact that the samples were taken between 1998 and 2005 begs the question: why four years to compile a report that collates data from 291 samples? I’m all but certain that there has to be a computer some where that could have helped crunch the numbers and toss the report over the wall within a couple of months of the field work being completed.
To-date, 48 states have issued fish-consumption advisories for mercury. Forgive me if I decide that I will continue to consume the occasional meal of fish taken from my favorite streams and lakes. My advice to anglers and non-anglers alike; enjoy the occasional finny meal, just don’t overdo it. Remember: everything in moderationThe first report from USGA that I mentioned bears good news on the state of the Great Lakes fishery. It seems that during the months of June and July, Atlantic salmon were found in the Salmon River. New York’s Salmon River empties into Lake Ontario near Pulaski in Oswego County. I consider this to be exciting news for fly anglers.

The Salmon River has long known for its annual runs of Pacific salmon. Finding naturally born Atlantics in the river – in this case more appropriately called Landlocked Salmon – is good news for fly anglers.
Once thriving populations of sea-run Atlantic salmon found along the New England coast and the Canadian Maritime Provinces were decimated by industrial development by early in the last century. The fish are anadromous, that is they are born in freshwater rivers, spend some time maturing there and then migrate out sea where then really beef up, eventually returning to freshwater to spawn.
Found in Great Lakes
Pacific Salmon – also called King or Chinook salmon – are a western fish. They were transplanted to the Great Lakes years ago. In the Ontario basin, Kings, as they are predominately called up there, have done very well. Their population does fluctuate, but they provide a real economic benefit for the region. The one problem that dogs them is that they spawn only once. They come back from the lake weighing 2 to 40 pounds or more, spawn and then die. To keep the numbers viable takes a great deal of resource to replenish stocks all of the time.
Landlocked Atlantics on the other hand can and do spawn multiple times. While Landlocks can grow to 15 pounds or even more they typically average just a few pounds. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has been trying to restore Landlocked salmon to waters all across the state for years.
In the recent press release USGA scientists announced that they recently discovered wild young Atlantic salmon in New York’s Salmon River. They said that this was the first time in more than a century that salmon produced naturally in the wild have been found in what was once New York’s premier salmon stream. Forty-one wild Atlantic salmon were collected in June and July. All of the salmon were under one year old and ranged in length from about 2-2.5 inches.
In the announcement, Jim Johnson, Station Chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in Cortland said, “This discovery suggests that after many years of reproductive failure restoration is starting to work for this species.” Johnson commented further that the finding should provide real excitement. His words did not ring hollow with me. I wouldn’t walk around the block for a 30 pound King, but I’d crawl a hundred miles over hot embers and broken glass for a shot at a 10 pound landlocked on a 5 weight fly rod. The odds would heavily weigh in my scaled opponents favor.
Bill Conners has spent nearly a half century plying the woods and waters of the Hudson Valley. He writes on outdoors news, notes and issues every Thursday in Players. He can be reached via e-mail at conners@bill conners.net, or by calling the Players Hot Line at 845-437-4848

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