Aug 2, 2012

Date: 8/2/2012

If you fish, run, or bike along our shorelines and piers you’re likely to see the difference. Throughout May and June, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and local health departments have been posting new warning signs along shores, piers, and boat launches. It’s part of a multi-faceted campaign that has brought together community organizations and local government to educate fishermen and their families about eating fish from the San Francisco Bay safely. Some Bay fish contain chemicals, such as mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) that can harm your health.

Members of the press are invited to observe a sign posting and meet with community-based organizations involved in fish education efforts this July at Pier 7 in San Francisco.

In May of 2011, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) released an updated advisory for eating fish from the San Francisco Bay. The new guidelines allow for greater consumption of bay-caught fish-- good news for people who eat fish from the bay—but also make clear which species of fish should be avoided. Women between the ages of 18 and 45, and children under 18 years should take special care in choosing fish from the bay that are lower in chemicals and higher in nutrients.

How much fish can one eat from the bay?

Some San Francisco Bay fish are better for you than others. Omega 3s promote brain development in infants and lower heart disease in adults. However, because SF Bay has been contaminated by mercury and PCBs, people need to choose carefully what types of fish they eat.

“Eating fish is an important part of a nutritious, balanced diet,” said Dr. Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer. “We want to remind people that all fish are not the same, and some fish contain chemicals and should not be eaten.”

The old advisory, released in 1994, recommended only 1-2 servings a month of bay-caught fish.
The new advisory states that women under 45 years of age and children may eat up to:
 Two servings a week of Chinook (king) salmon, brown rockfish, jacksmelt, or red rock crab OR
 One serving a week of halibut or white croaker (Kingfish)
 They should not eat any shark, surfperch, striped bass, or white sturgeon
Adult males and women over 45 years may eat safely eat more fish, but should not eat any surfperch from the bay. The new guidelines recommend:
 7 servings a week of Chinook (king)salmon, or
 5 servings a week of Brown rockfish, or
 2 servings a week of striped Bass, Jacksmelt, or California halibut, or
 1 serving a week of white croaker (Kingfish), shark, or white Sturgeon

“Mercury and PCB contamination in the San Francisco Bay is a long term concern,” says Dr. George Alexeeff, director of the OEHHA. “Contamination levels in the bay have not changed significantly over the past 20 years, however we’ve learned more about these levels in individual species of fish. As a result, consumers have more choices. ”

To download the educational brochure for the San Francisco Bay Fish Project, please go to:

The San Francisco Bay Fish Project: Building alliances between government agencies and community groups

The San Francisco Bay Fish Project (SFBFP) is a two-year program coordinated by the California Department of Public Health to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals from eating San Francisco Bay fish. The SFBFP is part of a larger effort by the Regional Water Quality Control Board to reduce the levels of mercury and PCBs in the Bay and in Bay fish.

Faced with the enormous task of communicating to diverse groups of fishermen and their families, CDPH instituted a Stakeholder Advisory Group and developed a grant program to work with local organizations with established ties to the community and proven records of effective outreach. The program was designed to support community-based outreach and education projects tailored to the needs of fishing populations and underserved communities.

With guidance from the Stakeholder Advisory Group, CDPH also developed warning signs for the bay, multi-lingual brochures, and an educational video to help raise awareness about this topic. The fish signs were designed to communicate the basic advisory information to individuals with low language literacy. Posting of the warning sign began in May 2012 and will be complete by July/15/2012.

The San Francisco Bay Fish Project was created in partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Bay Area Clean Water Agencies, Western States Petroleum Association, Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association, and the Aquatic Science Center.

Grassroots Education

The San Francisco Bay Fish Project provided $20,000 to $25,000 grants to four bay-area community organizations to implement projects within their communities. The projects work directly with underserved communities, fishermen, and their families to provide education and counseling in clinics, classrooms, and on piers.

For more information on the San Francisco Bay Fish Project, please visit:

For more information on the community based projects, please visit: