SACRAMENTO – A bill authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) to require local health agencies to post advisories at California lakes, streams and rivers regarding what types of, and how much, fish can be safely eaten, has been signed into law by Governor Newsom.
While eating fish can be part of a healthy diet, many fish in California’s bodies of waters are contaminated with mercury, polychlorinated biphenyl chemicals (PCBs), pesticides, and other chemicals, 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 fish consumption advisories to be posted where people fish will provide the public with the most effective ‘on-the-water’ information about local fish and shellfish safety. Providing this information will help people make informed choices before feeding contaminated fish to their families,” said Assemblymember Quirk.
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) develops fish consumption advisories, 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. Unfortunately, these advisories are often not posted, leaving the public vulnerable and at risk for illness and contamination.
AB 762 will ensure that those advisories are posted at public access points to places where fish are caught. These warnings will also be made available digitally and available in English, Spanish, and other languages that people who commonly fish in the area will understand.
"Unfortunately many coastal and freshwater bodies in California contain harmful chemicals. 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. 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.
“As a scientist, and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, I spend a lot of my time understanding the various, and often complex, ways we are exposed to toxics in our day-to-day lives. As a society, we have done a great job about educating pregnant women on safe seafood consumption. It’s time we spent some of the same energy in educating the general public, especially vulnerable
populations about safely consuming seafood fished from our bodies of water. This bill will do that,” said Assemblymember Quirk upon learning his bill was signed into law.
AB 762 goes into effect on January 1, 2020.