The Texas Department of State Health Services is asking seafood eaters to refrain from ingesting eight species of fish from the Gulf Coast that tested positive for high levels of mercury.

The primary target for the advisory, says DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen, is recreational fishers. For others buying these species of fish in a restaurant or a market, he says the vendor should be able to say where they came from.

"Certainly, we would encourage people who are catching themselves not to eat these and for others, simply ask," Van Deusen said.

Says the state, blackfin tuna, blue marlin, little tunny, crevasse jack, king mackerel, swordfish, shark and wahoo all had mercury at levels that exceeded the state's recommended .7 mg/kg level. King mackerel has had an advisory on it since the 1990s and the state issued one for blue marlin and swordfish last year. The other species are new additions.

Van Deusen said this doesn't necessarily mean mercury levels have increased in the gulf; some of these fish have been "newly tested," he said.

"I don't know that we can say there's necessarily been an uptick," he said.

If you're a man or a woman past childbearing age, the state advises you eat these fish no more than twice a month.

Children younger than 12 and women of childbearing age shouldn't eat any of them at all, the state says. Consuming mercury regularly can damage the central nervous system and the liver. It can affect coordination, cause visual and hearing impairment, slurred speech and tingling of the skin.

As the state notes, "mercury is a naturally occurring element that can also be a byproduct of human activity."

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