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It’s Not About the Fish

It’s Not About the Fish

 

Written by Catherine Semcer, Senior Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Resilient Habitats Campaign

I started fishing when I was 8. I remember my father took me to a lake near our home in New Jersey, baited a hook, and showed me how to cast it into the water.† I’ll always remember how proud he was when I reeled in my first sunfish, how he treated it like I had brought a trophy salmon to hand.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to fish from the Arctic to the Rockies to the Appalachians.† I still fish with my father as much as I can and often fish with friends that†time on the water has blessed me with.† For me, our†days together — the laughs we share, the playful jabs and celebrations — they are the real trophies, too big to fit in any net. The bonds we share that are tighter than any lines are why I keep fishing, why I†share fishing with others, and why I speak up for our nation’s waters.

Unfortunately, there is one very bad part of fishing for millions of anglers nationwide. Fish advisories are in effect for waterways across the U.S., advising people to limit the amount of local fish species they eat due to†mercury contamination. Studies suggest that even a gram-sized drop of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake.

A potent neurotoxin, mercury gets into our air from coal-fired power plants and then falls into waterways from rain or snow.† It then accumulates in fish and the people who eat fish, putting pregnant women and their babies at risk for serious developmental and neurological problems.

For some communities, this threat is even greater.†An analysis of several studies†conducted among Latinos reveal that this community faces a disproportionate risk from toxic mercury pollution because of a combination of cultural, economic and linguistic factors.

Thirty-one percent of Latinos fish regularly, and 76 percent of those eat and share what they catch with their families. These families include young children and women of childbearing age, the two most vulnerable population sectors to mercury poisoning.

A study conducted by the University of California-Davis titled, “Fishing for Justice or Just Fishing,” revealed that Hispanic anglers fish close to their urban communities because of a lack of transportation options. The fish caught in urban areas tend to contain the highest concentrations of mercury contamination. And this exposure is already showing high levels of mercury contamination among Hispanic anglers.

Thankfully, this month the Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a long overdue update to the Clean Air Act that will strengthen public health protections from coal-fired power plants.

The Sierra Club is celebrating Mercury Awareness Week this week, as President Obama prepares to issue the first nationwide protections against toxic mercury from coal plants. Dozens of events nationwide plus a slew of new resources and tools will help Americans to better understand the dangers of toxic mercury from coal plants and to demonstrate what President Obama can do to protect us from this poison.

Yet despite overwhelming support across the U.S. for safeguards against this toxin, Big Coal and Big Oil are lobbying hard to block these commonsense safeguards.

We need our leaders to protect clean air, soil and water, and to hold polluters accountable. The strong mercury protections that the Obama Administration is expected to release would cut over 90% of toxic mercury from coal-fired power plant pollution, reducing the contamination that leads to unsafe fish.

In the end, it’s ultimately not about the fish, or the beautiful places where we cast our lines – it is about the connections between people that fishing inspires. Letís keep fishing safe for all families, whether it’s done for food, fun, or both.

Join me in encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration to stand its ground and move forward with the strongest possible protections against air toxics like mercury. For anglers and our families, it’s the right thing to do.

 

Related Stories:

How Dirty Money Dirties the Environment

Protect Our Health: Clean Up Toxic Mercury

Update on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Yes, It’s Still There)

 

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43 comments

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11:10AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

4:12PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

thank you.

4:11PM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

thank you.

8:08PM PST on Dec 27, 2011

So. A gram-sized drop of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake. What about the mercury that dentists put in our MOUTHS??!! Shouldn't we address this issue first?

3:33PM PST on Dec 12, 2011

zero mercury is safe.

11:35AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

IT IS BAD, some people relay on the fish right? I don't think artic circule living people can grow soy and eat tofu in place of fatty fishes.

10:55AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

I don't eat fish & know1 should that love animals !

5:17AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

I enjoy eating fish. Before the environment became so toxic, fish *used* to be very nutritious. Now I don't eat very many precisely because of the dangers of mercury and other contaminants. People still fish in my local river. I sure wouldn't.

10:05PM PST on Dec 9, 2011

I used to go fishing with my dad as a little kid- just catch and release. But after seeing some of the fish die after we tried to remove the hook, I realized it was cruel of me to catch them "for fun", and I stopped fishing. Before I became a vegetarian, I stopped eating fish, because I knew the fish died of suffocation, and that seemed a horrible way to die....

5:27PM PST on Dec 9, 2011

I've been thinking for awhile that instead of using a hook at the lines' end, one could tie a morsel of whatever and cast your line. Win-win: the fish eat, the fisher gets to relax and enjoy nature.

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Judy Molland An award-winning writer and teacher, Judy Molland is also an avid hiker, backpacker, and nature... more
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