DEQ Warns About Eating Fish in Pascagoula River

If you catch catfish or large-mouth bass out of the Pascagoula River, you may want to think twice before eating them. The DEQ and Department of Health have issued warnings about the high levels of mercury in the river. Now, both agencies are advising people to avoid eating fish from the Pascagoula frequently. Fishermen are speaking out on those strict warnings.

71-year-old Abner Hutchins fishes the Pascagoula River almost every day.

"That's a blue gill," Hutchins said as he looked through his bucket. "That's a shell cracker. What I bring home, I eat."

Hutchins said he isn't too worried about the findings that these fish contain too much mercury. Neither is his friend and fellow fisherman Wallace Tillman.

"I've ate out of this bayou and these rivers for years," Tillman said.

But that may be the real problem according to experts like Dr. Sid Eudy.

The danger isn't from eating a few contaminated fish. It's from eating these fish day after day, year after year.

Mercury causes problems when it builds up in the body.

"It's like lead in the sense of the more you get the worse it is, but builds up over time with exposure," Sid Eudy, a pathologist at Singing River Hospital said.

"Two or three times a week I eat this fish," Buzzy Shimp, another fisherman said.

Warnings of possible health problems haven't changed Buzzy Shimp's dinner plans either.

"Me and Mama gonna chow down on this one," Shimp said, bragging about his six-pound catfish catch.

"I know danger when I see it," Hutchins said. "If I see danger, I just throw it back overboard."

Loyal fisherman seem to agree, they're much more worried about what's in their buckets at the end of the day, than what's inside the fish.

The DEQ in Jackson says the accepted level of mercury in fish is .5 parts-per-billion. The level of mercury in the Pascagoula right now exceeds several parts-per-million, a significantly higher amount.