“We Dare to Defend Our Rights” – FISH GUIDE aims to protect the health and rights of Alabama fishermen and families

Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama

This week, the Coosa Riverkeeper, along with the Alabama Rivers Alliance introduced a new comprehensive “public right to know” program called FISH GUIDE,  in response to surveys conducted with more than 125+ fishermen on the Coosa River, which showed that nearly half the fishermen were unaware of fish consumption advisories.

FISH GUIDE provides fishermen and the public with supplementary information about state fish consumption advisories and features a toll-free hotline (1 – 844-219-RISK) for fishermen to immediately hear the advisories throughout the State.

Photo by the Coosa Riverkeeper

“In Alabama, our state motto is “We Dare to Defend Our Rights” but our fishermen and their families don’t have a right to know where fish consumption advisories are in their local waterways. Nearly every river in Alabama — The River State — has fish consumption advisories. We saw a need for a better way to alert citizens of these advisories and we are excited to tackle the challenge,” stated Justinn Overton, Executive Director of Coosa Riverkeeper.

In 2016, there were 34 fish consumption advisories on the Coosa River and its tributaries for polychlorinated biphynels (PCBs) and methylmercury. The advisories are recommendations made by the Alabama Department of Public Health concerning the portion size and frequency of fish consumed in specific waterbodies throughout Alabama. According to Coosa Riverkeeper’s surveys conducted with more than 125 fisherman on the Coosa River, nearly half of the fishermen were unaware of these advisories, and what it means for the health of themselves and their families.


Birmingham Alabama

Coosa Riverkeeper’s FISH GUIDE program was created to educate fishermen throughout the state and alert them to the fish consumption advisories in their watershed. FISH GUIDE also offers multiple videos with alternatives to traditional preparations of the fish that reduce the risk of the dangerous toxins.

The program includes:

  • A toll-free hotline listing all advisories throughout the state, by watershed. Fisherman can simply call 1 844-219-RISK to hear the current fish consumption advisories throughout Alabama.
  • An interactive map of the Coosa River including where to find all 34 fish consumption advisories, local marinas and bait shop, and public access points like boat ramps and canoe launches.
  • Short videos demonstrating alternative ways to filet a fish and recipes that reduce exposure to dangerous legacy toxins like PCBs. (Here is a Bham Now story about a Coosa Riverkeeper baked fish recipe)

“We are confident our new toll-free hotline will be make these advisories more accessible and easier to understand for the hundreds of subsistence fishermen throughout the Coosa River and the entire state,” concluded Overton.

To learn more about the toxins in our fish and rivers, and for more information about FISH GUIDE, visit www.CoosaRiver.org/FishGuide.


Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.