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June 26, 2012

DHEC updates 'Fish Smart, Eat Smart' campaign

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolinians who like to fish can go online for updated information to find out if the fish on their line is safe to eat or if it should be released, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

"Our website at has a state map with the latest advisories, information, a booklet and other materials that can be downloaded," 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."

According to Wilson, the most significant change to the 2012 advisory is the inclusion of more information on estuarine and marine fish species. The additional information is the result of a cooperative effort between DHEC and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to provide better fish consumption advice. The two agencies gathered data on species found in South Carolina's estuaries and off its coast.

"Many species of saltwater fishes have low levels of mercury and are safe to eat. A few species tested by DHEC have elevated levels of mercury and should not be consumed or should be eaten less often," Wilson said. "For at-risk groups, such as pregnant women, we continue to recommend avoiding king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tilefish and cobia."

Wilson said tilefish tested by DHEC were found to have mercury levels much lower than those tested by the EPA and the FDA. For individuals not in at-risk groups, DHEC now recommends a maximum of one meal per week of Atlantic tilefish rather than avoiding this species completely. Another change to the 2012 advisory is that there are no longer restrictions for consumption of largemouth bass in Berkeley County's Durham Creek.

"People can still safely eat fish taken from the state's waters if they follow the fish consumption advisory guidelines," Wilson said. "These guidelines highlight the types and amounts of fish that are safe to eat from South Carolina waters."

Each advisory is based on one meal (or 8 ounces) of uncooked fish, which is about the size of two decks of cards. Consumption advice is given for a specific species of fish within a water body. The contamination is in the fish and does not make the water unsafe for recreational or drinking uses.

Fish are an important part of a healthy diet for everyone, including women and children. Fish contain protein and nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Wilson said, however, that pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, infants, and children should not eat any fish with an advisory.

Copies of the 2012 Fish Consumption Advisory booklets will be available from DHEC county public health departments, DHEC regional offices, DNR district offices, Sportsman's Warehouse in Columbia, Bass Pro Shop in Myrtle Beach, OB/GYN offices, health clinics and many state parks, or on DHEC's website at:

For more information about fish consumption advisories, call DHEC's Fish Advisory Hotline toll-free at 1-888-849-7241.


For media inquiries:
Adam Myrick - (803) 898-3884
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