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Fish advisory meeting draws overflow crowd

LIVINGSTON – An overflow crowd turned out last week when a fisheries division official from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) spoke to the Polk County Hookers fishing club about that agencies recent advisory regarding the consumption of Lake Livingston fish.

FISH ADVISORY -- DSHS scientist Mike Tennent discussed the advisory issued regarding the consumption of fish caught in Lake Livingston during last weeks meeting of the Polk County Hookers fishing club. There are 30 lakes in Texas with similar advisories. (Staff Photo by Lew Vail)FISH ADVISORY -- DSHS scientist Mike Tennent discussed the advisory issued regarding the consumption of fish caught in Lake Livingston during last weeks meeting of the Polk County Hookers fishing club. There are 30 lakes in Texas with similar advisories. (Staff Photo by Lew Vail)A half hour before the meeting got underway, most of the 75 chairs that had been set up were occupied. By the time it began there were no more chairs and people were sitting in the lunchroom and the tables listening through the doors.

In December the fisheries division of the DSHS issued an advisory regarding consumption of fish from Lake Livingston and some attendees worried that because their subdivisions used water from the lake to drink, they might have contaminated water being piped into their homes.

Others, who sold real estate, asked how could they sell a lake home and then tell the people not to eat fish from the lake. Some also asked about their health issues since they have been eating fish from the lake for years and when it was suggested that meals be limited to eight ounces of fish per meal per person, they told the moderator he apparently had never been to a good "East Texas fish fry."

The advisory issued Dec. 18 reports the results of a survey taken from 2012-13 on the lower Trinity water shed. Fish on lake Livingston were collected at the dam, Wolf Creek Park, Kickapoo Bridge (Hwy. 190), an area just north of the jungle and at the Highway 19 bridge.

The fish were either netted, shocked or caught on jug lines and there was representation of all species currently and commonly found in the lake. The method of collecting tissue for analyzing was to filet the fish; no internal organs or heads were submitted. These filets were done on a large commercial workstation covered with foil to assure a true sample and each filet was wrapped and sealed and cooled immediately before another fish was processed. Samples were returned to the lab and frozen before being taken to the testing facility at Texas A&M University.

Samples were tested for arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium and zinc. Pesticides tested for included aldrin, alachlor, alpha BHC, beta BHC, delta BHC, chlordane, chlorphrifos, p,p'DDE, p,p'DDD, p,p'DDT, dacthal, diazinon, dieldrin and endosulfan I, and H. endrin, heptachlor, hexaclorobenzine, linden, malathion, methoxychlor, mirex, ethyl and methyl parathion and toxaphene.
Norm levels were those accepted by the scientific community for either non-cancer causing or cancer causing substances. Each sample recorded highs and lows (or none) and a mean was developed by normal division. The report totals 110 pages and is available at www.dhsh.state.tx.us/seafood.

The recommendation for consumption for fish in the Trinity River and Lake Livingston from U.S. 287 down to U.S. 90 near Houston is that women of child bearing age and children under 12 eat one meal a month, a four ounce portion, of either stripe or white bass.
Crappie were not tested in sufficient quantities and the results were low level, probably making them safe.

The most important factor in the testing was that all these chemicals are stored in the fatty tissue. When cleaning a catch, fishermen are advised to remove all flank fatty tissue, cut out the red meat (on white bass fishermen call it the 'blood strip').

These actions will lessen the potential for storage for the undesirous chemicals. Adult men and women weighing 154 pounds and children six to 12 weighing 77 pounds or under and age six weighing 33 pounds can eat one eight ounce meal per month of blue and flat head catfish or small mouth buffalo. Two meals of fresh water drum and three meals monthly of striped and white bass. Portion may be increased for those who need more calories due to higher weights, according to the guide lines from the report.
All species of gar are the most toxic and the advisory says not to eat any at all. It was noted that this is an advisory not a ban. No one will be penalized for catching, possessing or eating any fish from Lake Livingston.

During the question and answer session, one recurring theme is what is DSHS doing about this. The answer given was it is not the task of DSHS. Water quality is in the purview of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Another question was is there a follow-up survey planned. The answer is no, this study was funded by a federal and state grants and DSHS has no funds for a future study at this time. Laboratory costs alone were in excess of $300,000.