CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Frustrated by the fact that you can’t catch your fish and eat it too, Northern New England fisherman are joining environmentalists to demand strict federal mercury emissions controls.

“Knowing what I know about it I wouldn’t bring anything home for my family to eat, that’s for sure,” said Dan Hall, council chairman for Trout Unlimited of New Hampshire.

A report put out Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation criticizes the Bush administration’s proposal for a cap-and-trade program for mercury emissions, saying it does not adequately safeguard health, the environment or the recreational fishing industry.

Environmentalists oppose cap-and-trade programs – which allow power plants to buy credits to meet an emissions limit – because they do not address the dangers of mercury hotspots.

Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are among a coalition of 11 states questioning the legality of the proposal.

Anglers called on the government to honor the amendments to the Clean Air Act, which call for plants to install advanced equipment to cut mercury emissions.

“The technology to do better by these coal-fired plants exist today and trade and cap does not make any sense from an anglers point of view,” said Greg Ponte, Maine’s council chairman for Trout Unlimited.

While many anglers release the fish they catch, “if it’s legal to catch the fish, then it should be all right to cook this fish,” Ponte said.

Recreational fishing provides 10,000 jobs in the region, and generates $1 billion in the three states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mercury accumulation in the East is high because winds blow pollution from west to east, transporting pollution from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest to the Northeast, where it is deposited by precipitation.

Once mercury accumulates in aquatic systems, bacteria turn it into methylmercury, which is easily absorbed by fish. Humans and wildlife then eat the fish, putting them at risk for neurological problems.

Children and pregnant or nursing women have long been thought to have a higher risk to mercury exposure, because it poses developmental threats. But in an effort to track the risks of freshwater fish consumption, New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services plans to study mercury in anglers – a traditionally male-dominated group.

“We’re trying to survey anglers in our state regarding how much they catch and consume, the types of fish they catch and consume and where,” said toxicologist John Dreisig, noting that studies show a link between mercury exposure and cardiovascular illness in men.


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