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Warning Issued for Fish Taken from Coastal Waters

October 7, 1995

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Worried about increasing mercury contamination in fish caught in coastal waters, Florida authorities for the first time Friday issued a health advisory on species taken inshore.

The warning from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services included some of the most popular fish pursued for sport and food in some of the most popular fishing areas in Florida.

Friday’s advisory followed a two-year study on fish in Charlotte Harbor in Southwest Florida, Choctawhatchee Bay in the Florida Panhandle, Florida Bay off South Florida, Indian River Lagoon (north and south) off the East Coast, and Tampa Bay.

Tested were Crevalle jack, spotted sea trout, Gafftop-sail catfish, ladyfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel, said Tom Atkeson, the leading expert on mercury at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Warnings on certain freshwater fish were issued several years ago in some parts of the state.

Fish containing more than 0.5 parts per million of mercury should not be eaten more than once a month by pregnant women or children because they are particularly vulnerable to damaging effects on the nervous system that can cause deafness, numbness, reduced vision and coordination.

A sample of spotted sea trout from Florida Bay, sandwiched between the tip of the peninsula and the Florida Keys. contained .70 ppm.

``The mercury problem is not just a Florida Bay problem or just a Florida problem,″ said Atkeson, noting about 40 states have similar health advisories for fish caught in their waters.

``The mercury in the atmosphere has been increased because of the emissions and it spreads out worldwide,″ he said.

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