Advisory frying some fish vendors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Jerry Uzzle, owner of Jerry’s Fish Market, prepares catfish and buffalo for a customer at his shop at 2701 Halls Ferry Road Tuesday. Uzzle said none of the fish species he sells are caught in areas where the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has placed bans or advisories.(The icksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/24/02]Misunderstanding a state safety advisory has caused some people to shun all fish and has put some fresh fish shops in a bind.

“It’s cut my business by around 40 percent,” said Jerry Uzzle, owner of Jerry’s Fish Market at 2701 Halls Ferry Road.

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Other sellers have said they’re thinking about closing. If the markets aren’t buying, fishermen have no place to sell their catch.

Uzzle said he’s hung the state’s advisory signs and made clear he’s not selling dangerous fish, but people are still walking out.

“They think it involves Vicksburg and they’re scared to death,” Uzzle said.

In June 2001, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality issued the specific advisory telling people to limit consumption of certain types of fish taken from most of the lakes and streams in the Mississippi Delta. It was based on levels of insecticides, Toxaphene and DDT, banned in the 1970s, but still found in the flesh of some species.

The DEQ followed up with a poster-type sign suggesting that people not eat buffalo, gar, carp and catfish larger than 22 inches long more than twice a month. More than that could possibly pose an eventual health risk, the advisory said.

An absolute ban was imposed on consumption of buffalo fish from Roebuck Lake in LeFlore County.

The advisory does not cover any of the game fish normally caught by sport fishermen, including bass, bream, crappie, white bass, yellow bass, hybrid striped bass and smaller catfish. Also not covered by the advisory are catfish raised in commercial ponds in the Mississippi Delta.

Also excluded from the advisory are certain lakes. Among the lakes excluded are Old River Chute, Blue Hole, Fitler Lake, Tennessee Lake, Airplane Lake, Albemarle Lake and Chotard Lake in Issaquena County and Pervis Lake, Halpino Lake, Forest Home Chute, Fish Lake, Brecount Lake and Lake Centennial in Warren County.

The Mississippi River is also excluded by the advisory, but people are still changing their eating habits.

“Typically, when we issue advisories, we get one of three reactions,” said Phil Bass, director of the Office of Pollution Control at DEQ. “We get some people who read our advisories very carefully and follow them. Another reaction is people completely ignore them. The third reaction is they just quit eating fish. That’s the one we’re really concerned about, almost as much as issuing an advisory to begin with.”

Bass said the department is careful to tell not only what people should not eat but also what they should and can eat.

“It’s troubling to us every time people respond in a way that’s not helpful to them,” he said, adding that people may be substituting foods that can be harmful in other ways.

“Fish is an excellent source of protein and a very healthy food,” Bass said.

All people have to do, he said, is read and understand that the advisory is saying they should limit their consumption of certain species of fish taken from certain waters.