During The Sierra Fund’s fourth annual Post It Day event on Sunday, May 6, sixteen volunteers traveled to popular fishing locations in the Sierra to post information about which locally caught fish are safe to eat, and which fish should be avoided because of mercury. At select locations, permanent aluminum fish consumption advisories were posted for the first time, extending the life of this important public health message and maximizing volunteer effort.
Mercury is a persistent and pervasive remnant of the California Gold Rush. The main pathway of human exposure to mercury is through fish consumption. Mercury is a developmental neurotoxin that can lead to permanent developmental delays in children.
TSF has organized Post It Day annually since 2015, resulting in over one hundred state-issued fish consumption advisories posted at lakes and reservoirs in five Sierra watersheds. For the last two years, volunteers have posted in both Spanish and English.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) issues fish consumption advisories that outline how many servings per week of different species of fish can be safely consumed, based on mercury levels in fish tissue.
At Post It Day 2018, CEO Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin recognized long-term project supporters with the gift of permanent fish consumption advisory signage. Recipients included four water body managers in the area: Heather Newell, the Yuba River Public Staff Officer of the Tahoe National Forest; Monica Reyes, Recreation Manager for NID; Nevada City businesswoman and Council Member Evans Phelps; and Amy Irani, Director of Nevada County Department of Environmental Health.
“I love helping folks become educated,” Amy Irani said when presented with permanent signage in English and Spanish to be posted at Coyote Park. “We appreciate the acknowledgment of our long-term relationship with Post It Day,” said Monica Reyes of NID. Heather Newell of Tahoe National Forest added, “We are always happy to educate the public and it’s a pleasure for us.”
During the morning orientation, volunteers questioned why so many water bodies lack posted advice. Izzy explained that no public health regulations make posting advisories mandatory. TSF has spearheaded making fish advisories accessible for local fisherman through Post It Day efforts.
Post It Day is just one of TSF’s projects that focuses on the issue of mercury in fish. We have surveyed hundreds of anglers in the region to learn more about which fish are being consumed and in what quantities, and to understand if posting fish consumption advisories is an effective way to change angler behavior.
Additionally, TSF has caught hundreds of fish from local water bodies and had these samples tested for mercury, with the goal of filling data gaps that would allow OEHHA to issue additional site-specific fish consumption advisories.
We recently published a Fish Consumption Advisory Posting Protocol, developed from lessons learned in the first three years of Post It Day. TSF has and will continue to take the Protocol “on the road” to encourage community organizations and agencies to launch a fish advisory posting effort in their area.