Coal Released Mercury Ruins Fishing and Duck Hunting

Perhaps half the residents of the US still think climate change is no big deal. Fishermen and hunters are learning the hard way, though, that heavy reliance on coal has an impact on the fun part of their lives. Burn too much coal and the odds increase you can't eat what you catch or shoot because of mercury contamination. The US State of Utah, where coal provides 93% of the electricity consumed, is emblematic of the problem.

Fishing was once one of America's most popular pastimes. Its popularity slipped over recent decades, as rural people moved to metropolitan areas. City-fishing is rebounding, however, because so many urban waters have had point source pollution sources cleaned up - the fish are back. Thanks EPA. Thanks bi-partisan Congress Of Old.

Nationwide, according to USA Today:- "The estimated number of adults in the USA who fish: 34.1 million, about 16% of the population, according to Fish & Wildlife. The percentage of the population who have tried fishing at least once: 88%, according to the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. And these people spend more than $36 billion a year on fishing, according to the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation."

In Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune offers a cautionary tale of what can happen from eating mercury laden fish. It's a state wide problem, too. "Fish consumption advisories are in effect in seven locations in Utah, where officials suggest that eating too many can be harmful, especially to children and women of childbearing age. People also are urged not to eat any of three species of Great Salt Lake ducks - the common goldeneye, the cinnamon teal and the northern shoveller - because of high mercury."

"Utah's mercury problems shot to the forefront three years ago, after scientists reported they had found mercury levels in the Great Salt Lake that were higher than those found in any other lakes. Ever since, the state has been scrambling to understand the extent of the contamination and what that means to Utahns and their environment."

Here's a clue. There's no mystery. The more coal gets burned, the more mercury is released into the environment. Utah is a big coal state. Mines a lot. Exports a lot. Burns a lot. Those who like fishing and hunting might just as well file the barbs off their hooks and take up photography: if we keep adding coal fired generation capacity you too will end up with a pie diagram like this one (pictured). Those scrap books won't have any more pictures of the "big one" that didn't get away. They'll picture the ones let go, or the hunting trip not taken. "I am a Northern Shoveller Duck and I am very happy because no one wants to eat me. Has anyone seen my stove-pipe hat?"


Via:: The Salt Lake Tribune, Grim Fish Tale: Was mercury to blame for man's illness? Image credit:: USDOE, Energy Efficiency And Renewable Energy, and Cape Waterfowl, Northern Shoveller Duck,

Related Content on