Posts Tagged ‘market outreach’

What do you do when you have a big appetite for fish? Since nowadays most community members go fishing just for recreation, the market is typically the spot where folks go for their catch of the day. We developed a brochure in collaboration with our partners to widen outreach efforts to the local markets, since we did not have outreach materials tailored specifically for markets and restaurants. Designed to be a brochure and a poster, the main goal of developing the piece was to demonstrate the local fish contamination information in an easy and relatable way. In doing so, the brochure educates the market staff and many community members visiting these markets on a daily basis. The brochure includes information on health risks from eating white croaker which is one of the 5 local Do Not Consume fish, as well as provides clear instructions for market operators to buy only from approved sources and report illegal or suspicious vendors. Audiences have found the material to be easy to understand, engaging and simple. A local market employee was quoted saying the brochure was like “telling a story” as opposed to just plain information.

Currently, the brochure is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. It is distributed by Orange County Health Care Agency, Long Beach Bureau of Environmental Health and California Department of Fish and Wildlife in their market outreach efforts.

Have you seen the FCEC fish market brochure? Click here to check out a digital copy!


In smaller markets across Southern California, confusion and trickery can sometimes result in the sale of contaminated white croaker to both merchants and consumers. Looking out for the community means not only going where we catch our fish, but also where we buy them. To prevent the sale of contaminated white croaker in local markets, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and local health inspectors visit hundreds of local vendors every year to inspect their products and ensure that the fish sold there are purchased from approved sources, such as licensed fish wholesalers, distributors or commercial fishermen. Since 2008, our FCEC Enforcement Program has not found contaminated white croaker sold in markets.

The LA County Public Health Department inspects 30 markets twice a year, Orange County 12 markets monthly, and Long Beach inspects 15 markets, 3 restaurants and 1 wholesaler 4 times a year. In addition to inspections, CDFG representatives and health inspectors use our FCEC materials to educate sellers on the local fish contamination issues that affect them and their customers.

See our Enforcement Program team at work in the images below!

When it comes to highlighting efforts that protect both the environment and everyday people alike, there are few programs as impressive as the enforcement efforts carried out by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). FCEC, in collaboration with the CDFG, has noticed a reduction in the landing of white croaker, one of the most affected species from DDT- and PCB-contamination from the Palos Verdes Shelf.  Enforcement efforts by CDFG ensure that 10-per-day catch limits and the commercial no-take (catch ban) zone for white croaker near the Palos Verdes shelf are observed during commercial and recreational fishing. The results have been happier markets and healthier oceans.

We caught up with CDFG Lieutenant, Rebecca Hartman, to get a better idea of the scope—and success—of these programs.

1. Can you talk about the process when you inspect a commercial vessel? What are you looking for?

Rebecca Hartman: When wardens inspect a commercial fishing vessel, we try to watch the vessel first and get a feel for what gear they are using, and how many people are working on the boat. Although most people are law-abiding citizens, wardens always have to keep in mind that drugs and other items are sometimes smuggled into the United States by vessel.  Every contact with a vessel is appoached with that mindset. When we decide to contact the boat, we usualy pull up next to theirs, get the Captain’s permission to board, and climb over the railings onto the deck to do our inspection. Once we get a feel for everyone on the boat, we ask to see licneses and any fish they have caught.

Wardens look for a few general things when we board a boat at sea. We make sure that the area they are fishing in is open to commercial fishing with the type of gear they are using. In California, we have commercial fisherman that use hookah gear (diving using an air hose that leads to their boat), traps, nets, and fishing lines. We check to make sure the season is open for the type of fish they are taking, and that everyone on board the boat has a commercial fishing license and any permit that might be required for that type of fish or fishing gear. We check to  make sure the fish are the right size, and they have only kept the quantity they are allowed to take.  If it sounds complicated, it’s because it is!  State and Federal Agencies are walking a fine line between allowing people to fish, and protecting the fish populations enough to ensure we have fish for the future. It’s complicated, but it seems to be working.

2. Have you found any white croaker during your inspections (commercial vessels, recreational, markets)? What happens when you find white croaker?

Rebecca Hartman: I have seen them caught by sport fishermen on local piers, but not in the markets or restaurants lately. It appears that the white croaker just aren’t biting in large numbers this year.

When I find white croaker in a market, although it’s been awhile since I have, I ask to inspect the paperwork to determine where the fish were caught. As long as they were not taken in the “red zone,” there’s no problem with eating the white croaker. If they don’t have documentation, I seize the fish until they can provide documentation that it came from a “clean area.” If they can’t provide the documentation, the fish are seized and destroyed.

When I find someone on a pier keeping white croaker inspite of the health warnings, I always point the health advisories out to them and make sure they understand the decision they are making. It is their right to keep and eat white croaker if they choose.


3. What’s the latest news about white croaker landings?

Rebecca Hartman: We looked at landing receipts from 9/1/2010 through 9/1/2011 and found that less than 68 pounds of white croaker caught from the commercial catch ban area were landed. This is a significant decrease from previous years. For instance, in 2009, about 3,300 pounds of white croaker caught from the commercial catch ban area were landed.

So, I think we can say that our outreach has had a huge impact on the market for white croaker, although some could argue it could be other forces as well. Next steps include a warden visiting the businesses that purchased the white croaker to see who is actually consuming it. The warden would also speak to the fishermen landing the white croaker, just to make sure they are aware of the reasons for our concerns, although it is obviously not their target species.

In our last issue of the FCEC newsletter we informed you that our program was set to receive a prestigious Environmental Justice National Achievement award from EPA headquarters in Washington DC, and on February 10, 2010 we celebrated in San Pedro, California at the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse.

With over 50 people in attendance, the event was not only a celebration of the work that FCEC does, but it was also a tribute to all of the partners that make it happen on the ground, and in our communities, day in and day out.

Keith Takata, Superfund Director USEPA Region 9, opened the event with a short introduction, which followed with the award presentation by Enrique Manzanilla also of the USEPA Region 9. Tiffany Nguyen, an FCEC partner, then gave remarks about the significance of the award on behalf of the recipients.

“The significance of receiving the award is that our work and effort in promoting healthy fish diets in the Vietnamese community has received recognition from the EPA,” Tiffany Nguyen of BPSOS later said. “The program is increasing awareness [about] fish diets and the program is positively changing the behavior of fish consumption and fish selection.”

Other members that were recognized for their work included Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, California Dept. of Fish and Game, City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Heal the Bay, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Orange County Health Care Agency, St. Anselm’s Cross-Cultural Community Center, Cal-EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Asian Youth Center, Herald Community Center and S. Groner Associates.

There are also many other partners that make vital contributions to the project, including Montrose Settlements Restoration Program trustees, the Santa Moncia Bay Restoration Commission, Cal-EPA Department of Toxic Substances, California Department of Pubic Health Environmental Health Investigations Branch and Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts.

“Community members are beginning to pay attention to other contaminants associated with fish consumption as a result of our work,” added Nguyen. “And as a result babies will be born in healthier conditions and cancer rates will decrease among adults.”

It is FCEC’s hope that the Environmental Justice Achievement Award is only the beginning. The work must continue in order to have a lasting impact on the community.

To view a slideshow of the event, please click here.