Fishing the Mouth of the Cuyahoga

Submitted by MaryBeth Matthews on Mon, 07/07/2008 - 09:26.
Fishing the Mouth of the Cuyahoga

These folks were catching perch for dinner.

Are the fish from this part of the river safe to eat? I recall seeing thousands of dead fish washed up on the river bank this spring that the gulls wouldn't touch. Who keps the data on the levels of toxins found in the local wildlife? 

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Question of the day... is NEO-area Lake Erie fish safe to eat?

I was by Lake Erie yesterday and wondered the same thing, as I looked in the grey water at the poor little living fish and the big dead ones. So, what is the current "environmental" perspective on eating fish from Lake Erie... my position is to largely avoid eating all fish, these days, from anywhere... I do not trust this channel of our local or global food supply, at all, and I can't grow fish myself, yet, so....

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Check the attachment at the

Check the attachment at the bottom of the post, and you will see another photo, looking up the path toward the abandoned Coast Guard station. There were families lined up all along the chain-link fence with their lines cast and buckets filled with the catch of the day.

I've had a life-long seafood allergy, so I can't eat fish, but quite frankly I'd be afraid to wade in that murky brown debris-filled water, let alone eat something that grew in it.

There is a relatively new parking lot at the end of the gravel drive which runs alongside the railroad tracks, where most of the fishermen park.  The cars here last night were not the BMW's, Mini Coopers, and Lexus found in the west end lot near the marina. They were old Dodge Caravans, Ford Escorts, and Chevy's that had seen better days. These folks seemed to be Clevlanders from the neighborhood. With the price of food skyrocketing, many people have begun growing their own produce, and now that they've discovered a new fishing spot, they are catching their own fish.

If the fish living at the mouth of the Cuyahoga are toxic then families fishing here need to be warned. I realize a sign might not make the image conscious crew at Cleveland Plus too happy, but let's get real, would they want to eat these fish if they saw were they came from?

Limit to 1 meal per week

  Thanks MaryBeth for this important reminder.  Ohio EPA publishes the fish advisory information in several languages, too.

Documents on this Web site are available in the Adobe Acrobat™ PDF format. Download a free Adobe Acrobat™ reader for your operating system from Adobe.  If you have problems downloading large PDF files click here.

Great Photo :

These rivers are worse than Cuyahoga?!?!

I can't believe the Cuyahoga isn't on the "Do Not Eat" list... that makes the places below really frightening. I wonder how frequently this is monitored and updated... I believe the industry in the Flats is probably more active now than the dates of these reports... could things be worse here?

 Body of Water Species – DO NOT EAT! Area Under Advisory
 Ashtabula River All Species U.S. Route 20 to Lake Erie
 Dicks Creek All Species Cincinnati-Dayton Road (Middletown) to the Great Miami River
 Great Miami River All Suckers Lowhead Dam at Monument Ave. (Dayton) to the Ohio River
 Lake Nesmith (Summit County) Channel Catfish, Common Carp All Waters
 Little Scioto River All Species State Route 739 near Marion to Holland Road near Marion
 Mahoning River Channel Catfish, 21” and over Rockhill Ave. NE (Alliance) to the Pennsylvania Border
Common Carp, Smallmouth
Bass 15” and over
 Maumee River Channel Catfish Waterville to Lake Erie
 Ottawa River (Toledo) All Species I-475 north of Wildwood Preserve (Toledo) to Lake Erie
 Portage (Ohio) Canal
 (Summit County) Channel Catfish, Common Carp All Waters
 Summit Lake (Summit County) Channel Catfish, Common Carp All Waters
 Tuscarawas River Flathead Catfish 26" and over State Route 416 (New Philadelphia) to the Muskingum RiverDO NOT EAT!  Fish High in PCBs or Other Contaminants

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More on eating Ohio fish

I found this article on eating fish safely:

This portion of the article was particularily interesting:


"Mercury may pose a considerable public health threat to many of Ohio's children, as Ohio EPA estimates that every body of water in Ohio is contaminated with levels of mercury high enough to warrant a statewide fish consumption advisory. This advisory warns all Ohioans to consume no more than 1 fish meal per week from any of Ohio's rivers, lakes, and streams. Ohio is the nations #2 emitter of mercury, just behind Texas.

The contamination of fishing waters in Ohio is widespread-extending from backyard ponds and local streams to popular fishing destination such as Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, and the Rocky River in Northeastern Ohio where fish tissue samples of mercury range from 5.6 to 97.1 parts per trillion (ppt), well in excess of USEPA's threshold of 1.3 ppt.

Consumption of fish from these waters can have serious consequences. Studies estimate that over 640,000 children born each year in the U.S. are at-risk for developmental problems due to exposure to mercury in the womb. These impacts include delays in physical development, blindness, deafness, impacts to fine motor skills, and impacts to cognitive development and learning such as language acquisition, attention, and memory.

Though the most at-risk for negative impacts from fish consumption are women and children, studies are now linking chronic health impairments to men including increased risk for heart attack, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease among others. "



Once a week? I don't think so!

To me, this all says don't eat any fish from the waters of Northeast Ohio, even if community leaders and the media are not willing to accept and demand that, for the health and safety of residents. Meaning pollution, and poor planning, and corrupt and ignorant regional leadership have eliminated the social and economic value of fish and fishing related commerce in the region. What is the economic impact of that, and the health and social consequences (medical treatments, special education, crime, prisons) on the region? Certainly $ trillions, especially as few wise people would move to a place so pathetic as to still be destroying their own environment, so we shall largely attract a poor quality population willing to live anywhere unhealthy for work.

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Water politics

Newsflash: Fox 8 tonight 7/8/2008 revealed that the huge water main break that took place over the winter involved incompetence and complete lack of oversight by the City of Cleveland for work done by an outside contractor installing a utility vault (!)

Jeff Buster broke this story shortly after the actual event in March 2008.  Fox 8 interviewed Julius Ciaccia, now installed at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and never mentions that the faulty installation occurred on his watch as Director of Public Utilites, and instead paints him the victim, now with the NEORSD, for the cost of the clean-up and millions of dollars of treated water wasted down the sewers.

Also, this past week, Crain's Cleveland discusses the possiblity that some suburbs balking at the City of Cleveland's water rate hikes, may take a hike and purchase their water from Avon, instead.

Families will be eating fish out of Lake Erie, even more so, now, with food prices soaring.  Can we continue to afford this colossal waste of public dollars and this betrayal of the public trust?

here's a guide produced by

here's a guide produced by the EarthDay Coalition relating fish consumption to mercury and pcb contamination.

Study: Women living in mercury's shadow

Midwesterners are better off, but the more money you make could mean higher levels of the toxic metal

The nation's first region-by-region analysis of mercury in women's blood shows vast differences based on where they live, with the highest levels found in the Northeast.

There, nearly one in five women of child-bearing age have eaten so much contaminated fish that the toxic metal in their blood would pose a risk to their fetuses, compared with one in 10 nationally, the federally financed study found.

Women in the Midwest generally had much less mercury in their bodies; less than 3 percent exceeded a safety level intended to protect the developing brain before birth.

The study also found that women who make more money tend to have higher mercury levels. That may be because they are better able to afford expensive seafood, such as swordfish or high-grade tuna, that often is more contaminated.

That finding suggests consumer advisories about mercury in fish are starting to work, the researchers argue. The seafood industry and top officials with the Food and Drug Administration have insisted that advising women about high- and low-mercury species would scare women away from eating seafood altogether.

"Women are a lot smarter than they have assumed," said the study's lead author, Kathryn Mahaffey, who until this week was a top scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "They're eating fish, but they're choosing more wisely."

Medical experts agree that on balance, eating fish is good for most people. Seafood generally is a low-fat source of protein, and some fish, such as salmon and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are thought to help prevent heart disease and stimulate brain development.

But studies have found that regular consumption of mercury-contaminated fish can offset those benefits. Exposure to mercury in the womb, mostly from fish eaten by mothers, can irreversibly damage the brain before birth, causing subtle delays in walking and talking as well as decreased attention span and memory.

After an extensive review, the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading scientific advisory body, concluded two years ago that Americans need to eat more fish but should vary their choices and, in some cases, avoid certain species altogether because of mercury contamination.

The newest study--financed by the EPA and based on blood samples and fish consumption data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--was posted this week on the Web site of Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal published by the National Institutes of Health.

The peer-reviewed study found that 10 percent of U.S. females ages 16 to 49 had mercury levels in their blood exceeding 3.5 parts per billion. Previous studies have shown that level causes the amount of mercury in a fetus to exceed the EPA's safety limit of 5.8 parts per billion.

In coastal states, 16 percent of women exceeded the limit, compared with 6 percent among their inland counterparts, who generally eat less fish.

Levels among the most exposed women are dropping but remain a concern, said Mahaffey, who had a long career at the EPA as one of the agency's top toxicologists. Her analysis found that the amount of mercury in those women has declined from 7.2 parts per billion to 4.4 parts per billion since 1999.

Michael Bolger, an FDA toxicologist, agreed that more awareness of mercury's dangers appears to have led many women to choose seafood that tends to be less contaminated. But Americans still don't eat enough fish, Bolger said.

The FDA in particular has been criticized for failing to do more to protect women and children from mercury exposure. A 2005 Tribune investigation found that supermarkets routinely sell fish that are highly contaminated with the toxic metal, in part because the federal government does not inspect seafood for mercury before it is sold.

Moreover, the government's consumer advisory does not reflect its own testing data. The FDA/EPA advisory tells pregnant women, young children and other at-risk groups to not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because of high mercury levels. It also cautions those groups to limit their overall fish consumption to 12 ounces a week, including no more than 6 ounces of canned albacore tuna.

Yet the advisory is silent about other commonly sold fish that contain even more mercury than albacore, including grouper, orange roughy, Chilean sea bass and marlin.

In response, physicians groups and several states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, have issued their own warnings that caution women and children against eating a wider variety of species. Likewise, many supermarket chains have posted warnings.

The seafood industry has financed research suggesting that mercury warnings are scaring women away from seafood. As a result, industry representatives contend, those women are depriving their children of important nutrients.

"There is a lot of confusion out there about what women should do," said Jennifer Wilmes, a dietitian for the National Fisheries Institute, an industry trade group. "The worst thing you can do, of all of your options, is to eat no fish or very little fish."

mhawthorne [at] tribune [dot] com,0,5597039.story

One Fish, Two Fish, Sad Fish, Blue Fish

This just in  from the United States Geologic Survey newsroom.