Fears Rise Over Health of Fishers Who Eat Toxic Bay Ridge Fish
While summertime fiction stories exploit the fear of sharks in the water, the year-round facts are that most fish caught in our city waters contain toxins that can seriously damage people’s health. Recent focus has been centered on the 69th Street Veterans Memorial Pier, a popular destination for hundreds of fishers eager to save money and feed their families.
Recently the Daily News tested fish at that and other locations. Test results discovered cancer-causing PCBs and
high mercury levels. These, the city health department has stated in previous studies and health warnings, are
dangerous particularly if eaten regularly. This is especially true for pregnant and child-bearing-age women, and
children under the age of 15.
The fishers seen at the pier and all along the Shore Road bike and walk path that lines the waterfront are plentiful
in numbers. Many are often seen getting on and off the Third and Fifth buses and the Bay Ridge Avenue R subway with
their fishing poles and equipment in tow.
As reported in the Daily News and elsewhere, they fish because most of them are money-strapped and want an easy and
cheap way to feed themselves and their families. The fish they catch are usually large and tasty, they said.
There are no health warnings at the pier and shorefront pedestrian and bike path. But that is due to change soon
with “Public Health Advisory” green warning signs, posted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the NYS
Department of Health.
The signs include the aforementioned warning for women and children, and advise others “to limit their consumption
of fish and eels.” The signs also include the statement that “some fish caught in New York City waters are harmful
to eat.” For more information, the signs advise calling the state’s health department at (800) 458-1158 or to visit
Besides the 69th Street Pier and Shore Road walkway, the signs about possible tainted fish will also be posted at
fishing sites on Avenue U, the Steeplechase Pier and Burnett Street in Marine Park. The state has not conducted a
full study of the city’s waterways in at least a decade, according to the Daily News.
Fish scrapings and parts, along with some trash, on the pier have been the subject of complaints to elected
officials and Community Board 10.
A water study team of marine science students from Fort Hamilton High School conducts an annual water quality
research study and issues the results to the city, state and the public. The yearly gage showed toxins and kept
track of overall improved and degraded water conditions.
That was effort was initiated about 20 years ago by science teacher and assistant principal Tom Greene, now an
oceanography instructor at Kingsborough Community College. He has been trying to interest the city in a marine
science educational center on the Bay Ridge waterfront, a high priority item at Board 10.
by Harold Egeln