Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I eat fish?
What is an advisory?
How does DHEC determine if a waterbody should have an advisory?
Why do we have advisories?
Are Fish Consumption Advisories only in South Carolina?
Why are some fish not safe to eat?
What is a good general rule of thumb to follow?
Who is at risk?
Why are these groups at a greater risk?
What advice should these at-risk groups follow?
What are the main contaminants effecting fish in South Carolina?
What do I need to know about mercury?
What are some health notes for adults?
What do I need to know about PCBs?
What are the health effects of PCBs in my body?
What do I need to know about radioisotopes?
How can I reduce the health risks from contaminated fish?
What do I need to know about shellfish in South Carolina to stay safe?
What about fish that I buy instead of catch?
Does DHEC post signs on waterbodies with Fish Consumption Advisories?
What if a waterbody does not have a sign at the access point?
Where can I get more information?
- It's low in fat & contains omega-3 fatty acids (boosts heart health)
- It's a great source of protein, vitamins, & minerals
- Eating fish regularly can reduce your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
- To get all the benefits, you should eat fish at least two meals each week, but
remember to choose the right types of fish to eat.
- NOTE: Breading & frying fish may decrease health benefits
- The advisory will list a lake, stream, or river in South Carolina. Then, it will tell you the type of fish and amount of fish that is safe to eat in that area.
- If a waterbody or type of fish is not listed in the tables, it means that DHEC has not issued any consumption advice.
- Here are the reasons why DHEC may not issue an advisory:
- The waterbody may not have been sampled.
- There may not be enough data.
- The waterbody is privately owned.
- Advisories help you decide:
- Where to fish
- Which fish to keep
- How much fish to eat
- No Advisories – some lakes, streams, and rivers in South Carolina that have been tested do not have advisories. Click here to find out which waterbodies have no advisories in South Carolina.
- DON’T FORGET
You will need a valid South Carolina Fishing license in order to fish in all public lakes, rivers, and streams, including all of the waterbodies listed on this website.
- DHEC tests fish from South Carolina's lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and offshore waters.
- Some saltwater fish samples are collected by both DHEC and DNR.
- All samples are tested for chemicals to see if any of the fish are contaminated.
- DHEC looks closely at the data and then issues fish consumption advisories where contaminated fish have been found.
- Once a contaminant has been found in a waterbody, DHEC tests additional species.
- DHEC issues advisories to help ensure that the fish you catch are safe to eat.
- South Carolina is not alone. Most states have issued fish consumption advisories. To look at other states’ advisories, go to http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/states.htm.
General Rule of Thumb:
Older and larger fish have eaten more and have been in the water longer, so there may be more contaminants in their bodies.
Amount of contaminants in fish increases
- Children under 14
- Women who are nursing
- Women who are pregnant
- Women who plan to become pregnant
- Developing bodies, such as infants and small children, are at a greater risk since their brains and nervous systems are still forming.
- The body naturally removes small amounts of contaminants, like mercury.
- These contaminants can build up in our bodies if too much of these contaminants are being consumed.
- Health problems can occur when there are too many harmful contaminants in the body.
- Eat only one meal of freshwater fish each week from a waterbody without an advisory.
- DO NOT eat any fish from waterbodies with an advisory. (www.scdhec.gov/fish).
- DO NOT eat any king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tilefish, or cobia.
NEED MORE INFO?
To find out more, visit EPA’s web site at
www.epa.gov/ost/fish or go to FDA’s web site at http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/FoodbornePathogensContaminants/Methylmercury/ucm115662.htm
- Radioisotopes (found in the Savannah River in very small amounts)
(Illustration by Erin Brodel, NJDEP)
- Mercury in the environment comes from natural sources and from pollution.
- The largest sources of pollution have been from decades of burning fossil fuel (like coal) and waste.
- Mercury builds up in the tissue or muscle of the fish (part that we eat).
- It can also build up in our tissues when we eat fish contaminated with mercury.
- The risk is only in eating the fish, which means you can still enjoy water activities like swimming, boating, and other recreational activities.
- Our risk from mercury depends on how much and how often we eat certain types of fish.
- Mercury in fish is an issue for the whole nation, not just South Carolina.
- Too much consumption of fish with high levels of mercury may lead to heart disease in adults.
- Health effects of mercury in adults can usually be corrected if a person stops eating fish that contain high levels of mercury.
- If you are concerned about the amount of mercury in your body, see your doctor.
- PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls.
- Man-made compounds; banned in 1976
- PCBs were often used as fluids for electrical transformers and products like cutting oils & carbonless copy paper.
- PCBs remain a problem today because they do not break down easily in the environment.
- PCBs build up over time in the fatty parts of the fish.
- PCBs can also build up in our bodies.
- By cleaning or cooking fish to reduce fat, you can reduce the amount of PCBs you eat.
- You should still follow the Fish Consumption Advisories even if you clean and cook the fish the right way.
- Click here to find out how to cook & clean fish to reduce PCBs.
If pregnant women eat fish containing PCBs, their babies may suffer from:
- Lower birth weight
- Smaller infant head size
- Premature births
- Developmental problems and learning disabilities
- Radioisotopes are radioactive forms of an element.
- Occur naturally or can be man-made.
- Some fish found in the Savannah River may contain radioisotopes, cesium-137 and strontium-90.
- Levels of radioisotopes found in these fish in South Carolina are low and have decreased over time.
- If you follow the advice for the Savannah River, the added health risk from these elements is very low.
You can reduce the health risks from any type of fish by following these tips:
- Do not eat more fish than the advisory recommends.
- Eat fish from lakes and rivers that do not have advisories.
- Eat the smaller fish and let bigger ones go.
- Eat different types of fish instead of just one type.
- Clean and cook your fish the right way (only helps reduce PCBs).
- Enjoy fishing by catching and releasing the fish instead of eating them.
- DHEC regularly tests the salt waters containing shellfish beds for bacteria.
- If health standards are not met, or if conditions have changed to make the shellfish unsafe, DHEC will close the shellfish bed.
- A closed shellfish bed means that it is unsafe to eat and illegal to collect the shellfish in that area.
- Testing ensures that the oysters, clams, and mussels you collect and eat in South Carolina salt waters are safe.
NEED MORE INFO?
- For more information on DHEC Shellfish program, visit at: www.scdhec.gov/shellfish.
- For shellfish closure updates, call 1-800-285-1618.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a national mercury advisory for fish that you buy.
- The advisory includes fresh, frozen, and canned fish that you buy at a store or restaurant.
- EPA and FDA advice for women and children in the at-risk groups:
- Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, Tilefish, or Cobia.
- Eat up to 12 ounces (2 avg meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury
- Check local advisories in your state for fish caught by your family and friends.
- Follow the same advice when feeding fish and shellfish to young children only serve them a smaller portion.
NEED MORE INFO about store bought fish?
- Visit FDA’s web site at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm077331.htm
- Or call their toll-free information line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD
- Visit EPA’s web site at: www.epa.gov/ost/fish
- Yes, DHEC does post signs on public boat landings that are access points to the waterbody under advisory.
- Here are reasons why there may not be a sign at the access point to a waterbody:
- There is no advisory
- The waterbody has not been tested
- The sign has been vandalized or damaged
- Always refer to DHEC's Fish Consumption Advisory website (www.scdhec.gov/fish) or booklet for the most accurate information on whether a waterbody is under advisory.
- For SC Fish Consumption Advisory web site, go to www.scdhec.gov/fish
- You can also call DHEC’s toll-free number at 1-888-849-7241
- To learn more about mercury, visit www.scdhec.gov/mercury
- For more information on fishing and SC’s Rules and Regulations for fishing & boating, visit DNR’s web site at www.dnr.sc.gov
- Visit http://screelkids.dnr.sc.gov/ for information on a free fishing program for kids.
Bureau of Water . Phone: (803) 898-4300 . Fax: (803) 898-3795 . Contact Us