State report finds Big O fish safe to eat

OKEECHOBEE — Water quality issues are of concern to those who live and work around Lake Okeechobee.

Fish consumption advisories are published periodically by the State of Florida to alert consumers about the possibility of chemically contaminated fish.

The most recent edition was published in September 2017.

The good news for those who fish the Big O: While there are some issues with fish in the southern Everglades, Lake Okeechobee fish are safe to eat.

According to the report, for Lake Okeechobee, which is bordered by Glades, Hendry, Martin, Okeechobee, and Palm Beach counties, the following is advised:

• Brown bullhead catfish, channel catfish, Redear sunfish and Mayan cichlid: women of childbearing age and young children are advised to limit consumption to two meals per week; all other consumers are advised to limit to two meals a week.

• Black crappie, Bluegill, White catfish: Women of childbearing age and young children are advised to limit consumption to one meal per week; all other consumers, two per week.

• Largemouth bass, less than 13 inches: Women of childbearing age and young children, one meal per month; all others, one meal per week.

• Largemouth bass 18 inches or more: women of childbearing age one meal per month; all others, one meal per month.

According to the Florida Department of Health, most seafood has low to medium levels of mercury. Depending on the age of the fish, the type of fish, and the condition of the water the fish lives in, the levels of mercury found in fish are different.

Where does the mercury come from? Everywhere. Burning fossil fuels can release mercury into the atmosphere. The mercury in the Everglades could come from as far away as India and China.

For most people, the risk of eating fish exposed to mercury is not a health concern, according to the Florida Department of Health. However, developing fetuses and young children are more sensitive to the harmful effects mercury has on the brain than other people. As a result, women of childbearing age and young children should eat less fish than all others to avoid the higher health risks.

Based on mercury levels, DO NOT EAT advisories were issued for women of childbearing age and young children for largemouth bass from Lake Olivia in Highlands County, Alligator Lake in Osceola County, Anclote River in Pasco County, Big Cypress Preserve in Collier County, Blackmouth River and tributaries in Okaloosa and Santa Rose counties; Brick Lake in Osceola County, Buck Lake in Brevard County, the C-14 Canal in Broward County, The C-17 canal in Palm Beach County, Compass Lake in Jackson County, Cowpen Lake in Putnam County, Cypress Creek in Calhoun County, Equaloxic Canal in Liberty County; Fisheating Creek in Glades and Highlands counties, Gadsden Park in Hillsborough County, Gap Lake in Washington County, Grasshopper Lake in Marion County, Grassy Lake in Highlands County, Hillsborough River and tributaries in Highlands County, Hungryman Canal in Palm Beach County, Hunters Lake in Hernando County, Juniper Lake in Walton County, Krome Avenue Canal in Miami-Dade, Lake Annie in Highlands County, Lake Apopka in Lake and Orange counties, Lake Butler in Union County, Lake Catherine in Marion County, Lake Charlotte in Highlands County, Lake Daugharty in Volusia County, Lake Disston in Flagler County, Lake Eldorado in Lake County, Lake Ellen in Wakulla County, Lake Fredica in Orange County, Lake Gentry in Osceola County, Lake Glona in Lake County, Lake Hampton in Bradford County, Lake Hart in Orange County, Lake Jackson in Walton County, Lake June-in-Winter in Highlands County, Lake Louisa in Lake County, Lake Margaret in Putnam County, Lake Mary Jane in Orange County, Lake Octahatchee in Hamilton County, Lake Olivia in Highlands County, Lake Placid in Highlands County, Lake Sylvan in Seminole County, Lake Wilson in Hillsborough County, the Loxahatchee Slough Canal in Palm Beach County, Magnolia Lake in Clay County, New River in Franklin and Liberty Counties, Ocean Pond in Baker County, the Ochlockonee River in Gadsden, Leon Counties Marion and Putnam counties, Otter Creek in Levy County, Porter Lake in Washington County, St. Mary’s River in Baker and Nassau counties, the Steinhatchee River in Dixie, Lafayette and Taylor counties, the Swanee River System in Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilcrist, Hamilton, Lafayette Levy, Madison, Suanne and Union counties, Sweet Water Creek in Calhoun and Liberty Counties, Telgoia Creek in Liberty County, Turkey Lake in Orange County, Woodbine Spring Lake in Santa Rosa County.

Health advisories were issued for largemouth bass 14 inches or larger for Barron River in Collier County, the Aerojet Canal in Miami-Dade, Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade and Monroe County, Holeyland Water Management Area in Palm Beach County, Hungryland Canal in Palm Beach County, The L-31W Canal in Miami-Dade, the L-67A canal in Broward County, Six Mile Creek in Hillsborough County, the Tamiami Canal in Miami-Dade County, the WCA2 canals in Broward and Palm Beach counties, WCA3 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Health advisories were issued for largemouth bass more than 24 inches in Lake Istokpoga in Highlands County, Lake Kerr in Marion County, Lake Walk-in Water in Polk County.

Health advisories were also issued for some other species of fish in some Florida lakes, and for fish in coastal waters. For the complete report online, go to www.floridahealth.gov.

For additional safety information regarding fish, see this web site: http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/prevention/healthy-weight/nutrition/seafood-consumption/quick-facts.html

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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