Legislation Requires Fish Warnings to Protect Public Health

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced AB 762 to require local health agencies to post advisories at California water bodies depicting the amount of fish caught there that people can safely eat.

While eating fish is part of a healthy diet, many fish in California’s rivers, lakes, and streams are contaminated with mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl chemicals (PCBs), and other contaminants, making them unsafe to eat in certain quantities. Risks associated with the consumption of fish and shellfish containing chemical contaminants include neurological damage and developmental impairment in young children.

“Requiring the posting of fish consumption advisories will provide the public with the most effective “on-the-water” information and knowledge of fish and shellfish safety. Providing this information can help people make informed choices before providing potentially polluted fish to their families,” said Assemblymember Quirk.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) develops fish consumption health advisories for the general public, with specific advice for pregnant women and children, on the safe amount of fish and/or shellfish that can be consumed. To date, OEHHA has issued fish consumption advisories for about 100 waterbodies throughout the state, as well as statewide advisories.

Under current law, OEHHA encourages local health officers to post the fish consumption advisories, but local health officers decide whether to post the advisories. This bill will ensure that those advisories are posted to inform the public at public access points to waterbodies where fish are often caught.

"Unfortunately many coastal and freshwater bodies in California contain harmful chemicals like mercury and PCBs.  These toxins build up in the bodies of fish and may pose a significant health threat if eaten.  While there are known health benefits to fish consumption, we need to be careful about eating certain fish from certain sources.  This measure will expand the availability of important information on how to reduce the risk from fish consumption.  With the necessary guidance and resources, local jurisdictions can play an important role in this public health service," said Justin Malan, Executive Director of the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators.

AB 762 will be eligible to be heard in Committee in March.