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Health officials issue advisory, warn not to eat certain Columbia River fish

Yakama Nation demands clean up of the river


Oregon and Washington health officials have issued an advisory warning people not to eat resident fish from two sections of the Columbia River due to high toxin levels.

The Oregon Health Authority and Washington Department of Health issued the joint advisory Monday, Sept. 23.

The advisory recommends people not to eat fish that live year-around between Bonneville Dam and Ruckel Creek one mile up stream, and between Ruckel Creek and McNary Dam, about a 150-mile stretch on the Columbia River.

The reason for alert is mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in tissue of fish that stay in one area and become exposed to toxins throughout their life-cycles. Such fish include bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, walleye, carp, catfish, suckers and sturgeon.

The advisory does not apply to migratory fish species like salmon and steelhead.

Health officials recommend eating no more than one meal per week of any resident fish species from the affected area. A meal portion is about the size of your hand.

People who eat too much contaminated fish can suffer negative health effects over time like damage to organs, the nervous system and reproductive system.

Tribe speaks out

A tribal leader of Yakama Nation has spoken out in response to the advisory.

Yakama Nation Chairman Harry Smiskin said state and federal governments must act to clean up polluted sections of the Columbia River that are contaminating fish.

“The fish advisories confirm what the Yakama Nation has known for decades,” Chairman Smiskin said. “State and federal governments can no longer ignore the inadequacy of their regulatory efforts and the failure to clean up the Columbia River.”

In the Treaty of 1855, the Yakama Nation retained fishing rights throughout the river. The tribe has repeatedly identified contaminated sites along the Columbia and expressed their concern for the health and culture of the Yakama people.

The tribe has called upon the state and federal agencies for cleanup actions that would protect the tribe’s resources.

"The new advisories once again pass the burden of responsibility from industry and government to Tribes and people in the region," Smiskin said.

Public health officials do not know how long the advisories will last.

“Rather than addressing the contamination, we are being told to reduce our reliance on the Columbia River’s fish,” Smiskin said. “This is unacceptable. The focus should not be ‘Do not eat’— it should be ‘Clean up’ the Columbia River.”

Read the fish advisory at: http://goo.gl/xZUYY9




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