SACRAMENTO, 5 August 2013 – The Sierra Fund is pleased to announce that last week, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) finally released “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 is great news because it means that a long-standing information gap has been filled and there is now scientifically-supported information for every fishing location in the state – something The Sierra Fund has spent years advocating for.
The bad news is that the new guidelines confirm that mercury is dangerously high in California’s fish. The new guidelines recommend that women under 45 and children under 18 DO NOT EAT bass, sucker fish, 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.
In our local area of Nevada and Placer Counties, these new guidelines pertain to Lake Wildwood, Scotts Flat, Bullards Bar, Lake Spaulding, Hell Hole, Oxbow, Slab Creek, and numerous other small lakes and reservoirs. Additionally, at lakes such as Rollins, Combie, Englebright and Camp Far West, it is advisable to follow the newly released general guidelines if the fish you catch is not covered by the location-specific guidelines existing for those areas.
Prior to these new guidelines, hundreds of lakes and reservoirs in the Sierra had no fish consumption warnings – which led the public to believe that the fish from those locations were safe to eat. In actuality, it just meant that not enough fish had been sampled from that lake to determine whether they were safe to eat or not. In Gold Rush country, where mercury from historic mining operations has built up in our fish, certain species are generally not safe for children and women to eat – as the new safe eating guidelines confirm.
In creating the advisory and guidelines, OEHHA scientists evaluated data from 272 lakes and reservoirs and considered data from more than 2,600 individual fish samples. The data come from the State Water Resources Control Board’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program, the Toxic Substances Monitoring Program, and the Fish Mercury Project. A full report on how these guidelines were developed is available on OEHHA’s website.
The Sierra Fund CEO Elizabeth Martin is pleased that precautionary information has finally been released. “We have been working for years to bring good information to families in the Sierra who want to eat local fish, but not endanger the health of their kids. These new guidelines make our job so much easier. We now have clear, specific guidelines for every lake or reservoir in the Sierra.”
OEHHA plans to continue their work to get data on fish mercury levels from Sierra lakes and reservoirs, and will continue to issue location-specific safe eating guidelines as they are developed. But in the meantime, this new release of general guidelines helps us all make safe choices when eating local fish.
For more information on the new guidelines, including educational materials, FAQs and a technical report on how they were developed, go to http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish.html