Signs Warn Shore Anglers of Contaminated Fish

More than 30 new signs have been posted at 24 shore fishing spots throughout Los Angeles County to warn anglers about five types of contaminated fish that should not be eaten.

The Fish Contamination Education Collaborative posted the signs in May at 24 popular fishing locations, including five signs in Manhattan Beach. Other signs have been posted in Redondo Beach, Venice, at Burton W. Chace Park in Marina del Rey, Dockweiler State Beach, Ballona Creek, Long Beach and Seal Beach.

“We need these new signs to let anglers know that there are five species of fish they would do well to avoid,” said Carmen White, a remedial project manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who oversees the fish collaborative. 

The signs warn people not to eat fish that have elevated levels of the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl trichloroethane) and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) from the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, which is the largest known DDT contamination site in the world. The 17-square-mile area was contaminated by the Montrose Chemical Corp.’s DDT manufacturing plant in Torrance that discharged residue into the sewage system from 1947 until 1971. The area has an estimated 100 tons of DDT and about 10 tons of PCBs spread across the ocean floor and was declared a Superfund site in 1996. 

DDT, which has been banned in the United States since the early 1970s, has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in humans. Contamination is highest among bottom-feeding fish, and the EPA for more than a decade has been trying to prevent consumption of contaminated fish near the Superfund site.

The new signs have large lettering in English and Spanish and warn people not to eat white croaker, barred sand bass, black croaker, topsmelt and barracuda. Each fish is depicted.

“Residents of L.A. County often hear about the health benefits of eating fish; however, they also need to be aware of the local fish advisory,” Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “The new signs that we are posting at the various L.A. County piers will remind residents, particularly fishermen, not to eat fish that are contaminated by elevated levels of mercury and chemicals such as DDT and PCBs.” 

Children and women of childbearing age should not eat black croaker or barracuda caught in the coastal area from Ventura Harbor to San Mateo Point because of elevated levels of mercury. All anglers should not eat barred sand bass, topsmelt or white croaker from the Santa Monica Pier to the Seal Beach Pier because all three have elevated levels of PCBs and DDTs from the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, health officials said in a statement.

The warnings came after the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sampled 22 species of fish from Ventura County to Orange County during a 10-year period. The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 2009 issued new safe eating guidelines based on the survey and the guidelines were simplified into the new signs that were posted by the fish collaborative in May.

The Fish Contamination Education Collaborative is a partnership among the EPA, state and local government agencies and community-based organizations such as Heal the Bay to raise awareness about the dangers of fish consumption near the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site. The collaborative in 2009 won an Environmental Justice Achievement Award from the EPA for reducing the consumption of contaminated fish by the local Vietnamese, Chinese and angler populations near the Superfund site.

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