No sign of threat: Don’t expect gov’t to issue warning of dangerous fishing
Want to know how much fish is safe to eat from polluted local waters? Good luck.
The Daily News, which reported on Sunday that the plunging economy has forced some New Yorkers to eat fish from polluted local waters, found crucial state health advisories missing from most fishing spots and clinics where officials claim they are available.
“It’s shocking,” said Hunter College public health expert Jack Caravanos. He wants officials to make sure people know the dangers of cancer-causing PCBs and mercury in local fish.
“The people who need to know about these warnings are not getting the message.”
The state Health Department insists 36,000 pamphlets a year are printed with the warnings.
The News visited nearly a dozen fishing piers in federal and state parks around the city and didn’t find the correct information available.
Only rangers at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park in Brooklyn and Jacob Riis Park in Queens dug up material – and it was dated.
“That one’s pretty old,” a Riis ranger said. “I’d do some more research.”
Health officials told The News they give the brochures to local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) centers warning poor women the fish isn’t safe.
A spot check of eight centers found no information on display. Officials at New York Downtown Hospital’s WIC center were able to find the info after searching for 20 minutes.
State health advisories say women of childbearing age and kids shouldn’t eat fish from local waters. Other adults should eat most local fish only once a month.
City Parks Department piers were another problem. Although officials insisted warning signs were up, The News randomly checked a half-dozen piers and didn’t find any.
“They really need to put up signs. I see many people fishing here and eating their fish, dozens of people,” Jose Nunez, 32, a South Bronx building superintendent, said at Clason Point Park.
He said he didn’t know he shouldn’t feed his catch to his son Alexander, 4. “A lot of them bring their kids, and they eat buckets of little bluefish,” Nunez said.
The News tested fish from local waters and found dangerous levels of mercury and PCBs in a striped bass caught off Queens and a bluefish from Brooklyn. A winter flounder from the Bronx had high levels of mercury but a lower level of PCBs.
PCBs and mercury are most dangerous to fetuses and young children.
State health officials said they “depend” on a string of other agencies to ensure the pamphlets get out to anglers and their families.
Parks officials insisted they had installed “hundreds” of warning signs in waterfront parks two years ago. Officials said they would “inspect and replace any missing signs.”
The only sign The News found is at Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island – but it is so rusted and weather-beaten it is almost illegible.
“Nobody can read that sign,” said angler Rafeal Knipping, 59, who was fishing near the barely decipherable warning.
“They need a big sign advertising the health concerns,” he said. “Bring me a poster and I’ll paint a sign.”
BY Ben Chapman, Jake Pearson and Elizabeth Hays