The California Office of Environmental Health and Safety launched an education campaign two years ago. But since then, officials have been very concerned that the message really wasn't getting out to the people who needed to know, especially people who fish for dinner off piers. The agency has entered into a new phase of its campaign.
Spreading the word?to one angler at a time, Frankie Orrala is an outreach worker with a warning: Five varieties of fish caught off local piers could be laden with contaminants.
"Do not eat this fish because it has a really high level of DDT," said Orrala, an outreach coordinator for Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental group.
It's part of remediation effort by federal, state and local agencies called the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC).
Video produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows the pollution source: a chemical company that dumped more than 100 tons of DDT and other toxins in an area called the Palos Verdes Shelf.
Within a red zone that reaches from the Santa Monica Pier to Seal Beach, there are bottom-feeding fish that could be harmful if eaten on a regular basis.
"They can cause real damage to liver. We know it can also cause cancer problems and is related to the immune system, to the decrease or lowered immune system in humans," said Orrala.
The danger level depends on your age, health and whether you are pregnant. There were so many variables, the agencies decided to keep it simple: a sign in multiple languages with pictures. Do not eat white croaker, barred sand bass, black croaker, topsmelt and barracuda.
Fisherman Eric Garcia says it's a good idea to avoid illnesses. He says he uses the croaker just for bait. But one woman on the pier Tuesday scoffed at the warning.
Orrala, one of many Heal the Bay outreach workers, is used to the rebuff as he chats up anglers. But he believes the signs will help reinforce the message.
"We are going to continue giving this information and telling people that we have a big problem around the Palos Verdes Shelf, in Southern California," said Orrala.
The signs are up on some but not all of the piers in the red zone. Signs were expected to be posted at 22 locations.