Earlier in the week, Frankie Orrala and James Alamillo gave a staff presentation in our office on the progress of the Pier Angler Outreach Program coordinated by Heal the Bay, EPA and the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC). Frankie and James have run Heal the Bay’s program for eight years. Their achievements, along with the efforts of the outreach workers, have been nothing short of astounding.
To date, the program has educated nearly 100,000 anglers at eight different piers: Santa Monica, Venice, Hermosa, Redondo, Pier J, Rainbow Harbor, Belmont and Seal Beach piers. (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium educates Cabrillo Pier anglers). The risk communication efforts focus on the health risks of eating locally caught DDT-, PCB- and mercury-contaminated fish. The outreach workers encourage anglers to avoid the most compromised fish, and they provide fishermen with cooking methods if they choose to eat any contaminated catch.
Risk communication has occurred in multiple languages, including Tagolog, English, Chinese, Hmong and Spanish. Here is a rough ethnic breakdown of anglers that have been educated:
The EPA-award winning efforts have provided tremendous health benefits. And the team’s one-to-one outreach has marked the only widespread educational effort on the coast about contaminated fish. Most of the educational signs at piers about consumption risks are gone or woefully out of date. New signs will be put up in the next month or so.
The critical nature of the efforts is underscored by the fact that consumption warnings issued by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are much more far reaching than they used to be. The days of warning the public to avoid eating white croaker, and white croaker only, are long gone.
People are now urged to avoid any consumption of five local species of fish (white croaker, black croaker, barred sand bass, topsmelt and barracuda) and limit consumption of another 11 species of fish to only one meal a week. The list includes surfperch, halibut, shovelnose guitarfish, corbina, queenfish, opaleye, rockfish, pacific sardines, Pacific mackerel, kelp bass and scorpionfish. That doesn’t leave many species on the safe list and the hazard zone for these health warnings goes from Santa Monica Pier all the way around Palos Verdes across San Pedro Bay to Seal Beach Pier!
Until the EPA finally moves forward with the Palos Verdes shelf-capping project of the most contaminated DDT and PCBs sediments (2012 at the earliest), and the EPA and the Regional Board move forward on efforts to clean up San Pedro Bay and the ports most contaminated sediment hotspots like Consolidated Slip, then efforts like the Pier Outreach Program will be critical to protecting the public health of subsistence and recreational anglers.
The EPA and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have done nothing to force the cleanup of San Pedro Bay toxic hotspots. But they have an opportunity to get aggressive next Thursday, May 5, at the Regional Water Board hearing. The board will mull a Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors cleanup regulation (Total Maximum Daily Load for a wide variety of toxics for the entire Bay) that is ambiguous and missing specific hotspot cleanup schedules. People who eat locally caught fish should come out and make their voices heard at the hearing at the Metropolitan Water District at 9 a.m.