Morse, Kerry

Mercury-Tainted Fish Threaten Health of Sierra Fishermen

By Kerry Morse
The Sierra Fund

As sunshine and warm breezes finally reach the Sierra Nevada Foothills, anglers across California reach for fishing poles, line, bait, and tackle.  And as people head to their favorite fishing holes, half have one other thing on their mind: dinner.

According to the Gold Country Angler Survey, a new study by Nevada City-based nonprofit The Sierra Fund, 47% of anglers at Sierra water bodies plan to eat what they catch that day, and 92% report eating locally caught fish sometime in the last year.

In a region with a legacy of mercury pollution from historic gold mining, these findings are cause for concern. Millions of pounds of mercury were dumped into Sierra rivers and streams in the mining days. Today, it’s still there in reservoirs, lakes and river beds. The greatest concern The Sierra Fund has is for human health, because the way people are exposed to mercury is by eating fish caught from these areas.