Mercury Levels In The Fish Of The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
If you've ever spent time near one of the lakes dotted throughout the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, you've probably noticed the signs warning anglers about the mercury levels in the fish they catch. Most notably affecting the largemouth bass population. But how does that happen? Let's look at the possibilities.
First off, if you're eating largemouth bass, punch yourself in the face really hard right now. I know, they're a type of perch, and the meat is decently sweet, but seriously... Bass? You're better than that.
As the apex predator of Southern lakes, the largemouth bass pretty much eats everything in the water. Mostly by predation, but also a big portion of that food chain is the fact they eat what their food eats. You trace that lineage of consumption, the bass eat it all by the time it gets to them. That's true of every apex aquatic predator, fresh and saltwater... and the bigger they get, the more toxins they accumulate in their bodies just by feeding when they're hungry. But where do those toxins come from?
In the case of mercury, they say that since all fish have traces of mercury in them, it must be a naturally occurring trait of these animals. But when the levels elevate to dangerous levels, there has to be an outside influence right? And that's where there's a debate raging across the scientific labs across the world.
In the Wichita Mountains, the favorite theory of why mercury is so prevalent in the fish there is due to the very small gold rush this area saw in the late 1800s. Mercury is used to recover the gold in the most brilliant but environmentally destructive way.
Mercury absorbs gold into an alloy. Then you boil that mercury alloy over a fire. The mercury evaporates into the atmosphere leaving only clean gold in the vessel.
So where does that mercury go? It floats microscopically in the smoke particulate until it eventually falls back to Earth, and eventually enters the water with runoff. It's also found in the cyanide gold recovery process that was on the industrial scale here in the 1800s.
There is another theory that the area has been contaminated by 150 years of military, field artillery, and aviation activity from Fort Sill... but the government would never knowingly harm the environment or this country's citizens would it?
In my own self-interests, we'll just cut that line of thinking off right here.
To be completely honest with you, if the state or federal authorities knew how the mercury levels around Fort Sill got so high, would they even ever admit it? I mean, they fought tooth and nail to prevent 9/11 first-responders from getting the help they so desperately need, surely they wouldn't do or hide anything harmful to us normies right?
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they don't know... But there are theories that are all inconclusive.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has thirteen lakes open for public fishing. At this time, Service scientists do not know the source of the mercury. However, it may be from gold mining operations conducted in the late 1800's, natural levels in the geological formations at the refuge, or from atmospheric contamination.
Make of it what you will. If you fish in or around the refuge, take notice in the warning. They want healthy adults to limit themselves to no more than eight ounces of largemouth bass every fifteen days. Pregnant women and kids are strictly prohibited. But seriously, stop eating my game fish. Largemouths are meant for taking pictures of and letting go to catch another day... not eating. Go catch and cook a crappie while the government still insists they're safe to eat.