August 2, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Some Pier Anglers Risk Chemical Exposure

Many fish caught in Santa Monica Bay are unsafe to eat.

By Kai McNamee

Although National Fishing Day, June 18, has come and gone, Santa Monica Pier-goers fish all year — some of them are frequently exposed to highly toxic chemicals. 

Anyone visiting Santa Monica’s historic landmark will notice the scores of fishermen and fishing poles lining the railings of the pier. Under California law, fishing from public piers does not require a license, making pier fishing an accessible activity for locals and tourists alike. 

Pollution, however, poses a serious threat to anyone who eats fish caught in the Santa Monica Bay. 

According to Mannie Mendelson, the owner of the Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle shop at the end of the pier, anglers have used the Santa Monica Pier for subsistence fishing as early as the Great Depression. But since then, pollution levels in the bay have changed dramatically. 

Between the 1940s and 1970s, industrial waste discharged into the bay led to dangerous accumulations of DDT and PCBs, chemicals historically found in pesticides. Although DDT and PCB are no longer used, their impacts can still be felt today: consuming DDT or PCB-contaminated fish can result in chronic health problems, according to Frankie Orrala, Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program Manager. 

Fishermen prepare bait before casting their lines.

Continuous, low-level exposure to these chemicals can cause “liver damage, decreased ability to fight diseases, reproductive harm, neurological effects and developmental effects,” Orrala said. 

“Certain areas of the Santa Monica Bay are considered as a Red Zone,” Orrala said, referring to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s designation of Santa Monica Bay as a high pollution area. “People who regularly eat fish caught near the contaminated areas, such as [white croaker, barred sand bass, black croaker, topsmelt and barracuda], face greater health risks because of prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals such as DDT and PCBs.” Signs on the Pier list these five fish as “contaminated,” instructing pier-goers to avoid consuming the tainted fish.

Despite the potential dangers of eating fish caught in the bay, several anglers still eat what they catch. 

Ricardo Camirrinta, a Beverly Hills resident originally from the Philippines, has been fishing from the pier and eating what he catches for 26 years. Mendelson himself sometimes eats what he catches in the Santa Monica Bay. 

“Migrating fish are tastier,” Mendelson said, explaining that he feels safe eating halibut caught in the bay due to its migratory patterns. 

Orella pointed out, however, that bottom-feeding fish, like halibut, are more likely to contain higher concentrations of DDT and PCBs. 

But many people fishing on the Santa Monica Pier practice catch and release. Felix, a Glendale resident originally from Buenos Aires, calls the pier his “second home” — Felix fishes for fun and releases what he catches back into the ocean. 

Ayan Bandyopadhyay, a Northern California resident and senior at the California Institute of Technology, is well aware of the “red zone” designation. 

Bandyopadhyay researched the issue before him and his two friends visited the pier to fish for the first time. Although they weren’t expecting to catch much, they had caught a handful of fish by the third hour of their adventure — the three friends posed for photos with their fish before throwing each of them back into the water. 

Related Posts

Library Director Patty Wong to Leave Santa Monica

July 30, 2021

July 30, 2021

Santa Monica Public Library (SMPL) Director Patty Wong announced recently that she will leave Santa Monica to take on the...

City Council Prioritizes Housing for Historically Displaced Households

July 28, 2021

July 28, 2021

At its meeting on July 13, Santa Monica City Council made changes to Santa Monica’s Affordable Housing Production Program and...

Homeless Man Charged with Hate Crime in Assault of Korean Woman in Santa Monica

July 27, 2021

July 27, 2021

Melvin Taylor faces charges in connection to July 23 incident By Sam Catanzaro Hate crime charges have been filed against...

Homeless Advocate Arrested Near Shelter on Suspicion of Dealing Drugs, Claims no Wrongdoing

July 27, 2021

July 27, 2021

65-year-old Garry Featherstone accused of selling meth, PCP By Sam Catanzaro A self-described homeless outreach advocate was recently arrested near...

Off Leash Dog Park And Picnic Area Coming To Downtown Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beat – July 27, 2021

July 27, 2021

July 27, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Off Leash Dog Park And Picnic Area Coming To Downtown Santa...

Two Arrested for Main Street Bike Shop Burglary

July 23, 2021

July 23, 2021

Two suspects were arrested for the burglary of a Main Street bike store after the owner witnessed the crime via...

Council Selects Berkeley Deputy City Manager to Helm Santa Monica

July 23, 2021

July 23, 2021

David White to be Santa Monica’s next City Manager starting in October  By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica City Council has...

Ocean Park Library Set to Reopen

July 20, 2021

July 20, 2021

New self-service hours begin July 28 By Sam Catanzaro The Santa Monica Public Library’s Ocean Park Branch is set to...

Police Tase Suspect Following Santa Monica Beach Stabbing

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

32-year-old man arrested Sunday evening on Santa Monica Beach, suffers head injuries in arrest By Sam Catanzaro As part of...

Santa Monica Beat: Santa Monica Beat – July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Serial Killer Arrested by SMPD Sentenced to Death * New Grants...

Santa Monica May Ban Lobbyists From Serving on Boards and Commissions

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

City Council instructs staff to draft ordinance to bar paid policy advocates from serving on board, commissions, task forces   By...

SMhopes Brings Artists Together to Reimagine the Post Pandemic World

July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021

Artist Paula Goldman in collaboration with Santa Monica Art Recovery displays art and poetry by local artists throughout the city....