The Sierra Fund’s Gold Country Angler Survey was a study that interviewed anglers at local fishing locations, to learn whether they were being exposed to mercury by eating the fish they catch.
Results of the Gold Country Angler Survey indicated that approximately half of anglers at Sierra water bodies plan to eat what they catch that day, and nearly all report eating locally caught fish sometime in the last year.
In a region with a legacy of mercury pollution from historic gold mining, these findings are cause for concern, according to CEO of The Sierra Fund, Elizabeth Martin. “Millions of pounds of mercury were dumped into Sierra rivers and streams in the mining days. Today, it’s still there in reservoirs, lakes and river beds. The greatest concern we have is for human health, because the way people are exposed to mercury is by eating fish caught from these areas.”
Although mercury exposure is dangerous for everyone, it is especially harmful to children and developing fetuses, so children and women of child-bearing age need to be careful to avoid eating fish high in mercury. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment issues safe eating guidelines for mercury in fish—but for lakes and reservoirs in the Sierra, there are few guidelines issued and almost none are posted at fishing locations.
“We conducted the Gold Country Angler Survey because we saw a problem,” says Science Director Dr. Carrie Monohan: “people were fishing at areas that we know are high in mercury, and there was so little information available to them about which fish were safe to eat. We needed to ask questions—Were they eating the fish they caught? What kinds were they eating and how much? How much did they know about health issues associated with mercury in fish? The answers we got show a problem.”
More details about The Sierra Fund’s Angler Survey project.
Full pdf of the updated Gold Country Angler Survey document.
The Executive Summary of the Angler Survey.