This weekend’s fishing opener is the perfect time to review fish consumption guidelines

MADISON — Feeling that first tug on your line and seeing your bobber dip is certainly a thrill many anglers are looking forward to during this weekend’s fishing season opener. But in the excitement of the catch, don’t forget to take use precaution when taking your catch home for dinner.

“Fishing is a terrific way to spend time with family and friends, being on the water and enjoying the places you love,” says Amber Meyer Smith, director of programs and government relations at Clean Wisconsin. “Eating fish has many health benefits, but unfortunately anglers across the state must remain mindful of mercury pollution to protect the health of their families.”

In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services currently list every inland body of water in the state under a fish consumption advisory due to mercury pollution. The state has established statewide safe-eating guidelines; for instance, because larger fish contain larger amounts of mercury, children under 15 and women of child-bearing age are advised against eating muskies. However, 155 waters have more stringent guidelines

Chronic exposure to this toxic substance results in memory loss, speech difficulties, troubles with vision and cardiovascular problems in adults. Children and the unborn exposed to mercury can face neurological damage that impairs development, leads to low intelligence and inhibits school performance.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to think twice about serving our families the fish we catch from our lakes and rivers,” says Smith. “Luckily, individual action plus laws enacted in recent years can help reduce mercury pollution.”

Mercury enters Wisconsin waters from coal plant pollution or from household and industrial products. While we now have a number of laws in places to reduce mercury, including requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent; a ban on selling products that unnecessarily contain mercury; and the successful e-waste law that makes it easier to recycle electronic waste, which can contain mercury, there’s more to be done. Residents can help reduce mercury pollution by lowering their energy use and properly recycling used thermostats and spent compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

“Mercury remains a serious threat in Wisconsin, but with your help we can look forward to a future where we won’t have to think twice before feeding our families freshly caught fish from Wisconsin’s waters,” says Smith.