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Are the fish in the Cape Fear River safe to eat?

Vicky Eckenrode

Fishermen on the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier in September 2009. (StarNews file photo)

No, said Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette, because of elevated mercury levels that have been found in some freshwater fish in the eastern part of the state.

“It’s not particularly safe to eat the fish out of the Cape Fear River or the Black River for that matter,” he said. “You’ll see fish advisory warnings over a lot of the bridges over the river. The area of the Northeast Cape Fear, up around Castle Hayne, actually is listed federally by the EPA as mercury impaired, which basically means that tests have shown there’s too much mercury there and more mercury shouldn’t be added.”

The N.C. Division of Public Health advises that pregnant or nursing women and children under 15 should not eat fish designated as high in mercury. Everyone else should only eat those fish once a week.

Among the state’s list of high-mercury freshwater fish are blackfish, catfish, jack fish, warmouth, yellow perch and black crappie caught south and east of Interstate 85.

For a complete list of ocean and freshwater fish that are low and high in mercury as well as healthy eating advisories of them, go to www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/fish/safefish.html.

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