What are Fish Consumption Advisories?
Why should I eat fish?
- It's low in fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids (which boosts heart health)
- It's a great source of protein, vitamins, and 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 and frying fish may decrease health benefits
What is an advisory?
- An 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 from that
- If a waterbody or type of fish is not listed in the tables, it means that DHEC has not issued any
- 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 to fish in any public
lakes, rivers, and streams, including all of the waterbodies listed on this website.
How does DHEC determine if a waterbody should have an advisory?
- DHEC tests fish from South Carolina's lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries, and offshore waters. Saltwater fish
samples are collected by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and DHEC.
- 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
Why do we have advisories?
- DHEC issues advisories to help you understand if the fish you catch are safe to eat.
Are fish consumption advisories only in S.C.?
Why are some fish not safe to eat?
What is a good general yardstick to follow?
Older and larger fish have eaten more and have been in the water longer, so there may be more
contaminants in their bodies.
Who is at-risk?
- Children under 14
- Women who are nursing
- Women who are pregnant
- Women who plan to become pregnant
Why are these groups at a greater risk?
- Because their bodies, brains and nervous systems are still developing, infants and small children, are at a
greater risk. The body naturally removes small amounts of contaminants, like mercury.
- These contaminants can build up in our bodies if too much are being consumed.
- Health problems can occur when there are too many harmful contaminants in the body.
What advice should these at-risk groups follow?
What are the main contaminants in South Carolina water bodies?
- Radioisotopes (found in the Savannah River in very small amounts)
What do I need to know about mercury?
How Mercury Ends Up on Your Plate
(Illustration by Erin Brodel, NJDEP)
- South Carolina's Fish Consumption Advisories are mostly due to mercury. To learn more about mercury, visit www.scdhec.gov/mercury/.
- Mercury in the environment comes from natural sources and from pollution.
- The largest sources of pollution stem from decades of burning fossil fuel (like coal) and waste.
- Mercury builds up in the tissue or muscle of the fish (the 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 water recreation.
- 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.
What are some health notes for adults?
- 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.
What do I need to know about PCBs?
- PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls.
- They are man-made compounds that were banned in 1976.
- PCBs were often used as fluids for electrical transformers and products like cutting oils and carbonless copy
- They 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
What are the health effects of PCBs in my body?
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
What do I need to know about radioisotopes?
- Radioisotopes are radioactive forms of an element.
- They 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 fish advisory advice for the Savannah River, the added health risk from these elements
is very low.
How can I reduce the health risks from contaminated fish?
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.
- Keep and 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 (this only helps reduce PCBs).
- Enjoy fishing by catching and releasing the fish instead of eating them.
What do I need to know about shellfish in S.C. to stay safe?
- 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
- 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 S.C. salt waters are safe.
NEED MORE INFO?
- For more information on DHEC's Shellfish program, visit www.scdhec.gov/shellfish.
- For shellfish closure updates, call 1-800-285-1618.
What about fish that I buy instead of catch?
Does DHEC post signs on waterbodies that have fish consumption advisories?
- Yes, DHEC does post signs on the public boat landings that serve as points to the waterbody
What if a waterbody does not have a sign at the access point?
- 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 or booklet for the most accurate information on
whether a waterbody is under advisory.
Where can I get more information?
- For an index of all waterbodies where fish tissue is tested in South Carolina, visit S.C.'s Food Consumption Advisory Map.
- 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 and boating, visit DNR's website at