New fish advisories: “Do Not Eat!”

“Do not eat!” That’s what the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is recommending when it comes to certain species of fish in Gold Country water bodies heavily impacted by mercury from historic mining activities.

In the 2009 Update of California Sport Fish Advisories, OEHHA concludes that women of childbearing age (18-45) and all children (younger than 18) should not eat any Largemouth, Smallmouth or Spotted Bass from: Lake Englebright, Camp Far West Reservoir and Lake Combie (also including Suckerfish).

In the Lower Feather River, “do not eat” recommendations are made for Black Bass, Stripped Bass, Catfish and Pikeminnow. In Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma, Largemouth, Smallmouth and Spotted Bass, Chinook King Salmon, Catfish and Trout (over 16 inches) made the list as did Bass and Pikeminnow in the Lower American River. OEHHA recommends that the same groups refrain from eating Pikeminnow, Largemouth and other Bass (excluding Stripped Bass) from the Sacramento River and Northern Delta.

The complete new OEHHA Fish Advisory is available at: www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/index.html.

“The problems posed by ‘Mining’s Toxic Legacy’ are increasingly being recognized by the scientific community, political leaders and the public,” says Mike Thornton, Mining Project Community Organizer for The Sierra Fund. “Much of that recognition is being led by a broader awareness and understanding of mercury contamination of fish from the Sierra to the Sea. People are concerned about toxins in the food and are beginning to understand that a major source of mercury contamination in California fish comes from mercury left in the environment as a result of legacy mining operations in the Sierra.”

“The Sierra Fund has been working for the last several years on both raising awareness of Mining’s Toxic Legacy, and also seeking and advocating for policy changes and funding that will help come up with practical solutions. Solutions include appropriate health education materials and assessment tools so that Sierra residents and visitors can make informed choices when it comes to protecting their health. We’re particularly concerned about ‘Subsistence’ Fishers (people who are consuming large amounts of fish from Sierra waters due to economic and/or cultural factors), since they are exponentially at risk of mercury poisoning and need to understand the risks they are taking.”

In 2008 The Sierra Fund released Mining’s Toxic Legacy, the first comprehensive report detailing the impacts of historic mining on the Sierra Nevada. The report is available here.

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