TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Several East Texas lakes are under a fish consumption advisory, meaning officials are advising the public against eating fish found in those waters.
The state says these advisories are due to certain chemicals being found in the fish. These chemicals include the following:
- Mercury – Mercury is a naturally-occurring element that may have a toxic effect on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
- Ciguatoxin – Ciguatoxin is a neurotoxin that is the most common cause of fish poisoning worldwide. Its toxicity includes gastrointestinal and neurological effects.
- Dioxins – Dioxins are pollutants that are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and can interfere with hormones.
- Dieldrin – Dieldrin are insecticides that can cause convulsions or death if eaten in large amounts. The chemical has not been used as an insecticide since 1989, meaning exposure tends to be unlikely.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls – Also known as PCBs, these man-made chemicals are no longer produced in the U.S., but can still be released into the environment from leaks, improper dumping or burning. They have a wide variety of adverse health effects, including potential carcinogenic effects.
The Texas Department of State Health Services monitors fish to see if environmental contaminants are present, like the ones listed above.
“We base all our advisories off of actual fish studies, where we take skin off fillet and we analyze the tissue for contaminants,” said DSHS Environmental Protection Specialist Andy Myers.
The main concern is for women of childbearing age and children under 12 years old, but anyone can be impacted by eating contaminated fish.
“Extended, repeated exposure is likely to lead to adverse health effects,” Myers said.
There are nine different advisories out for certain East Texas waters. Some advisories encompass entire lakes, like Lake Daingerfield or Hills Lake in Panola County. Other advisories include only parts of waterways, like the advisory for the Neches River where the problem starts on the Highway 7 bridge west of Lufkin, flowing downstream to a town near Beaumont.
“DSHS doesn’t want to keep people from fishing or even eating wild-caught fish. Both those activities are healthy,” said Myers.
Advisories also include parts of the river at Lake Sam Rayburn in Angelina, Nacogdoches, Houston, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, Trinity, Hardin, Jasper, and Tyler counties. The advisories outline that smallmouth buffalo should not be eaten from this area. For flathead catfish, gar, and largemouth bass, you need to limit your consumption to no more than eight ounces per month.
“It’s for a good reason and it’s not to say that, that water body is a complete disaster or danger,” said Jake Norman, Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries Management District Supervisor for Region Three.
Norman said these advisories are simply in place to make sure people stay as healthy as they can. The DSHS puts out advisories like these every year for fish that have high levels of mercury and other chemicals.
“Some water bodies, some rivers do have different metals and different chemicals in them both naturally or things that have happened over the years that can cause issues with consuming fish,” said Norman.
Each advisory includes specific guidelines to follow, such as avoiding types of fish altogether or limiting consumption to a certain amount of ounces. The guidelines are laid out on TPWD’s website.
“If they follow those guidelines perfectly, they really have nothing to worry about at all,” said Norman.
Advisories include the following East Texas waters. Click the links to learn more:
- Clear and West Forks of the Trinity River in Anderson, Dallas, Ellis, Freestone, Henderson, Kaufman, Navarro and Tarrant counties.
- Lake Livingston and Trinity River from US Highway 287 to US 90 in Anderson, Freestone, Houston, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity and Walker counties.
- The Neches River and all contiguous waters from State Highway 7 bridge west of Lufkin downstream to the US 96 bridge near Evadale, including B.A. Steinhagen and Sam Rayburn reservoirs in Angelina, Hardin, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, Trinity and Tyler counties.
- Clear Lake in Panola County
- Hills Lake in Panola County
- Big Cypress Creek in Marion County; Caddo Lake in Harrison and Marion counties; and Toledo Bend Reservoir in Newton, Panola, Sabine and Shelby counties.
- Lake Kimball in Hardin and Tyler counties and Lake Pruitt (Black Cypress Creek) in Cass County.
- Lone Star Lake (aka Ellison Creek Reservoir) in Morris County
- Lake Daingerfield in Morris County and Lake Ratcliff in Houston County
DSHS and TPWD advise people to just be careful what fish they place on their plate.