Thursday, July 31, 2014
Mary Wessell and her family, including R.J. and John Wohllerber, all of Denver, Colo., were fishing at the end of the Veteran’s Pier in Murrells Inlet on July 23.
She said the family has been coming to Garden City on vacation for 32 years and they don’t worry about advisories because they are only fishing for fun.
“We usually catch some Sheepshead, Black Drum or Red Drum,” Wessell said. Many people who fish along the South Strand are not too concerned about levels of mercury and other industrial pollutants that might be in certain types of fish.
That is because they either catch-and-release or catch mostly Flounder, Trout, Red Drum or smaller King Mackerel – some of the most popular fish caught in the area.
These fish are not on the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (SCDHEC) annual Safe Fish Eating Advisory, issued recently.
John Wohllerber said he worries more about the viability of fish species than he does about mercury or other pollutants in fish.
Capt. Shannon Curry with Catch-1 Sport Fishing Charters in Murrells Inlet said size limits are the only problem he faces taking people up to three miles offshore, around the jetties and through the backwaters of Murrells Inlet.
“We don’t have any problems with local fishing as far as eatability,” Curry said.
“There is nothing wrong with fish in Murrells Inlet.”
Brett Ballard, vice president of Tailwalker Marine in Georgetown said the only thing he worries about are large King Mackerel because of its mercury content.
“...or anything that comes out of the Sampit River because it is one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.,” Ballard stated.
“Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot to worry about.”
Lin Fore, owner of Lowcountry Expeditions out of Georgetown, which guides angler groups through the rivers and bays and to the jetties, agreed.
“Most of the popular fish, including Red Fish, Flounder and Trout have no advisories,” Fore said.
Available on the SCDHEC website, the advisory lists fish in specific areas that might contain some amount of pollutants.
This is to help the public identify fish safe to eat and others to avoid.
“Our website has a state map with the latest advisories, information, a booklet and other materials free to download,” said David Wilson, chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Water.
“This information will help anglers determine whether to keep and eat the fish they catch in South Carolina waters or release them.”
The most important change for this year’s list, according to Wilson, is the discovery of a man-made compound once used for industrial purposes called Polychlorinated Biphenyl, known as PCBs.
They were banned from U.S. production in the 1970s, but have been found due to intensive collection and testing by SCDHEC, not because of recently added PCBs, Wilson stated.
“People can still safely eat fish taken from the state’s waters if they follow the fish consumption advisory guidelines,” he said.
SCDHEC states that each advisory is based on eight ounces of uncooked fish (one meal) – about the size of two decks of cards, and that water in the area is not unsafe for recreational or drinking uses since the contamination is in the fish.
Nancy Cave, director of the Coastal Conservation League’s North Coast office in Georgetown, commented that coal-fired power plants are the main producers of mercury found in some fish.
“All rivers in the coastal planes continue to be under advisory and mercury has been a continuous problem,” she said.
The Granger plant on the Waccamaw River has been closed down, she said, but there could still be some mercury that seeped into the coal ash that has not been completely removed yet.
The Coastal Conservation League is one of the groups pushing to get the ash removed to reduce future contamination of the water.
She said there is still the Winyah Electric generating plant on Pennyroyal Road in Georgetown and the Cross Plant in Berkeley County.
She also said it is very interesting that the PCBs are just now being discovered after being banned in the 1970s, and she agrees that she would not eat any fish caught in the Sampit River.
“You have the International Paper Mill, 3-V Chemical and the Winyah Plant all on that river,” Cave said.
“I think this (SCDHEC advisory) demonstrates that coal plants are still injurious for human health and environmental health, and that we need to continue to move away from fossil fuels like coal and look at alternatives like solar energy and offshore wind.”
A full list of fish advisories across both Carolinas can be found at: http://www.scdhec.gov/FoodSafety/FishConsumptionAdvisories/AdvisoryMap/.