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SAN PEDRO, Calif. – Fishermen, along with scientists, completed initial seafood sampling along the Southern California Coast to determine impact on fisheries from the Southern California oil spill; laboratories received the samples on November 3.
Due to current lab processing times, the results are not expected for at least 14 business days, which translates to approximately the end of November.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will analyze the results and make a recommendation to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) director on whether to lift the closure based on sampling data. If the results determine there remains a risk to public health, additional sampling and analysis would be necessary before lifting the fisheries closure.
“Reopening the 645 square miles of closed fisheries remains a top priority for the Unified Command,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) Lt. Christian Corbo. “We thank the local commercial fishermen for assisting with sample gathering and the fishing community’s commitment to providing safe fisheries.”
The lab work will test for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are found in oil and can accumulate in species caught for human consumption, causing an increased risk for cancer and other adverse health conditions.
Some species are more likely to retain PAHs in their edible tissue than others. Fish are typically able to swim out of oil and remove PAHs from their bodies quickly. Crustaceans (crabs, lobsters and shrimp) have some ability to move away from oil and a moderate ability to remove PAHs from their bodies.
However, bivalve mollusks (oysters, clams and mussels) are unable to move away from oil and have less ability to remove PAHs.
“These species are more likely to retain PAHs that pose more of a human health risk. It can take weeks for these levels to show up, which is why sampling was done later in the response,” said Corbo.
Several hundred mussels have been collected from onshore locations in the closure area. More than 350 finfish and other invertebrates were collected from offshore locations throughout the closure area. This included more than 20 species, which were selected based on their potential for exposure to and accumulation of oil. They were also chosen for their importance to commercial, recreational and subsistence anglers, and for their representation of different feeding ecologies and habitat types within the closure zone.
Once OEHHA determines that levels of PAHs in the samples are below a level of concern to human health, a recommendation will be made to reopen the impacted fisheries.
Based on current lab projections, the earliest the fisheries closures could be lifted is late November, assuming analyzed samples are below the threshold level of concern.
For updates on fisheries closures, visit http://www.socalspillresponse.com/fisheries-closure.