Contaminated Fish Alert: High Mercury,
by Lynne Terry
Eating locally caught fish from the Columbia River might sound like a delicious idea, but if those fish aren't traveling through they could be contaminated.
Oregon and Washington state health authorities warned the public on Monday that so-called resident fish were tainted with high levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
The advisory does not apply to migratory fish, such as salmon, steelhead, American shad and lamprey, which swim along the river. But fish that spend their whole lives in one area are at risk of building up contaminants that can cause health problem for people. Those species include bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, walleye, carp, catfish, suckers and sturgeon.
Oregon and Washington state authorities urged people to avoid eating any of these species that are caught between Bonneville Dam to Ruckel Creek, which is located one mile upstream from Bonneville Dam. They advised the people to eat no more than one meal per week or four meals per month of any resident fish caught between Ruckel Creek and McNary Dam, a 150-mile stretch.
Washington state officials have also warned women of childbearing age not to each Northern Pikeminnow from the Columbia River and to limit consumption of largemouth and smallmouth bass, due to elevated mercury levels.
Mercury and PCBs pose a particular problem for unborn fetuses, babies and small children, causing lifelong learning and behavioral problems.
The Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Warm Springs tribes, which depend on Columbia River fish for food, want Northwest congressional leaders to pass legislation limiting toxins in the Columbia Basin. The river is the largest water body in the United States without a federal toxins reduction program, the tribes said.
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