On Saturday, April 13, The Sierra Fund launched our annual effort to post fish consumption advisories at popular water bodies in the Sierra where they apply. This effort seeks to increase access to information about which locally caught fish are safe to eat, and which fish should be avoided due to mercury contamination.
Mercury in Sierra Nevada watersheds is a predominant remnant of the California Gold Rush. Mined in the Coast Range and transported to the Sierra to improve gold recovery, mercury persists in the environment to this day.
Mercury is a developmental neurotoxin, disproportionately impacting women of childbearing age and children, as well as groups who consume fish at a higher rate than the general population, such as for cultural and subsistence diets.
To ensure that the public is aware of mercury in fish, and which fish are safe to eat, The Sierra Fund has organized an annual volunteer “Post It Day” event for the last five years. Since its inception in 2015, The Sierra Fund has posted over 100 state-issued fish consumption advisories in two languages at nine waterbodies in five Sierra watersheds. In 2017, The Sierra Fund developed and aired a Spanish language public service announcement to reach a wider audience of potential anglers with information about which fish are safe to eat. In 2018 we followed this effort up by producing a video tutorial in English and Spanish on how to read and use the information contained in fish advisories. This year, for the first ever, site-specific advisories are being posted at publically accessible locations on the Bear and Yuba Rivers, and Deer Creek.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) develops and issues fish consumption advisories, outlining how many servings per week of different species of fish can be safely consumed, based on mercury levels in fish tissue. These advisories are often site-specific, which means that the advisory reflects fish data collected specifically in that water body. For other water bodies where there is insufficient site-specific data, Statewide Advisories, including those for lakes and reservoirs, coastal locations, and fish that migrate provide healthy eating guidelines for various commonly consumed species. Fish consumption advisories for water bodies in the state of California can be accessed at OEHHA’s website, www.oehha.ca.gov/fish.