Perhaps you’ve seen urban anglers in your city—you know, the folks dropping a fishing line into waters along rip-rapped canals, seedy waterfronts, and murky riverways. Many of these anglers are recent immigrants, and many of them are fishing not so much for sport as for dinner. The Northern California environmental magazine Terrain reports on the difficulty that environmental officials have had in warning these communities that their catch may be seriously harming their health. Warning signs can be misinterpreted, and even when they’re clear, cultural traditions often trump their message.
Any urban bay, lake, or river is a virtual “cocktail of mean and nasties,” says marine scientist Timothy Fitzgerald of the Environmental Defense Fund, and many are polluted with toxins including mercury, PCBs, and pesticides. And yet,
Big American cities are also home to ethnic populations who love seafood and are accustomed to catching what they eat, rather than buying it retail. Many subsistence fisherfolk living in Northern California see no reason to break cultural tradition, especially during an economic downturn when passing up free meals feels like madness.
The story is part of an excellent cover package called “Sea Change” that includes articles on seaweed harvesters, rising sea levels, a program for tagging and tracking sea predators, and the general state of the oceans. As you might guess, it’s not always cheery reading, but it’s important for anyone concerned about the fate of the world’s waters and their intricate web of life.