BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced Monday the expansion of the existing precautionary fish consumption advisory for bass species due to mercury in the Little River.
The Little River advisory previously issued in June of 2019 was for a portion of the Little River within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to TDEC.
"The impacted segment was identified as extending from the national park boundary upstream of Townsend near river mile 35 upstream to the area called “The Sinks” near mile 41.5. Today’s action extends the advisory downstream from the national park boundary down to the U.S. Highway 129 bridge near Maryville," a TDEC release said.
While the previous advisory was for smallmouth bass only, TDEC said that was because that was the only species of black bass likely to be found within the national park.
TDEC advises that pregnant or nursing mothers and children avoid eating any black bass from the Little River and all others should limit consumption of bass to one meal per month.
“Precautionary fish consumption advisories are directed to sensitive populations such as children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and those who may eat fish frequently from the same body of water," TDEC Deputy Commissioner Greg Young said.
Other recreational activities on this river such as rafting, inner-tubing, kayaking, swimming, wading, and catch-and-release fishing carry no risk from mercury, officials said.
“We provide these advisories so people can make informed decisions about whether or not to consume fish they catch,” Young said.
According to TDEC, there is no advisory on trout, which were found to have generally low levels of mercury in previous surveys.
TDEC said it considers the source of mercury in the Little River to be an atmospheric deposition.
According to the EPA, atmospheric deposition due to the global burning of coal is the most frequent reason for elevated levels of mercury in fish.
TDEC said it will post warning signs at public access points and will work with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to communicate this information to the public.
For a complete listing of Tennessee’s current fishing advisories plus additional information about the advisory issuance process, click here.
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