The Sierra Fund is leading an ongoing project to post state-issued fish consumption advisories at Sierra water bodies where people are fishing, and at bait and tackle shops where anglers are shopping for supplies.
Fish consumption warnings about mercury in fish exist for many water bodies in the Sierra Nevada as a result of historic mining in the region, but prior to July 2015, none were posted at water bodies. On July 11, 2015, community volunteers posted 98 fish consumption advisories at 28 lakes and reservoirs in the Bear and Yuba watersheds. We plan to make this an annual event. Posting these advisories ensures that people who are fishing at public locations have the information they need to make healthy decisions about which fish are safe to eat.
On August 1st, 2013, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released general “safe eating guidelines” for fish from all of California’s lakes and reservoirs that do not already have site-specific guidelines pertaining to them. This general advisory is in addition to many site-specific fish consumption advisories that the agency has already released.
While the fact that this data gap has been filled is good news, the bad news is that the guidelines confirm that mercury is dangerously high in California’s fish. The guidelines recommend that women under 45 and children under 18 do not eat any bass, carp, and large brown trout. Instead, they may eat up to 2 servings per week of rainbow trout. This advice is intended to protect children and babies from mercury exposure, which can permanently damage their brain and nervous system.
The Sierra Fund worked with staff at OEHHA and the CA Department of Public Health to develop a poster appropriate for Sierra water bodies. This poster is now complete, and has been posted at numerous popular fishing locations throughout the Sierra. Click here to view the poster.
The Sierra Fund then worked with public and private landowners, reservoir managers, and recreation area hosts to obtain permission to post the fish consumption advisory signs at public fishing access locations. Many agencies, organizations and businesses granted permission to place the signs or offered to post them including: Tahoe National Forest, Nevada Irrigation District, Bear Yuba Land Trust, City of Nevada City, Lake Wildwood Lake Association, US Army Corps of Engineers, Auburn State Recreation Area, Cascade Shores Homeowners Association, and others.
A Community Posting Day
The Sierra Fund partnered with local non-profit organizations South Yuba River Citizens League and Wolf Creek Community Alliance to organize the first ever “Post-It Day.” Volunteers posted state-issued fish consumption advisory signs at nearly 30 water bodies in the Bear and Yuba watersheds, setting the precedent for sharing this information widely throughout the region.
The one-day event began with presentations on mercury in the Sierra, mercury in fish, and the human health impacts of mercury exposure. Nevada County Environmental Health Director Amy Irani spoke along with CEO Izzy Martin and Alex Keeble-Toll, The Sierra Fund’s Development Assistant and current Masters of Science student at CSU Chico, studying methylmercury accumulation in fish tissue.
Volunteers then packed a lunch to take into the field, retrieved their set of laminated posters and posting tools, and traveled to locations at lakes and reservoirs that we had identified and gotten permission to post. Click here for photos of Post-It Day volunteers at work! At the end of the day, volunteers reconvened to share their stories over an ice cream sundae.
You Can Still Participate
If you are traveling to a lake or reservoir in the Sierra Nevada region, contact us to see if we need a sign posted at that location. If it’s appropriate, we will send you out with a laminated advisory and posting materials so you can help us spread the word on which fish are safe to eat. Furthermore, if you are interested in participating in next year’s Post-It Day, or hosting one in your watershed, please contact Kelsey Westfall at 530-265-8454 ext. 217.
Angler Survey Project – The Sierra Fund’s study to learn about mercury exposure potential from eating locally caught fish
Fish Consumption Advisories – State-issued fish consumption advisories for lakes, reservoirs and rivers in California
Health Outreach Program – The Sierra Fund’s campaign to bring information about public health exposures to legacy mining toxins to rural Sierra communities, and the doctors and nurses who serve them
Mercury Trainings for Healthcare Professionals – The Sierra Fund’s program to educate regional doctors about mercury in the human body, and how to talk to their patients about eating fish