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Last Edited: 9/13/2005

San Francisco Bay Seafood Consumption Study
07/1998 - 08/2000

For many years, studies have shown that fish commonly caught in San Francisco Bay contain chemicals like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These chemicals can cause health concerns for people who regularly consume Bay fish. Since 1994, a health advisory by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has recommended that anglers limit the amount of Bay-caught fish they eat. However, little was known about the population that fishes in the Bay. In 1998, the Environmental Health Investigations Branch (EHIB)  received a grant from the San Francisco Estuary Institute's Regional Monitoring Program to conduct a study of the people who fish from San Francisco Bay. The purpose of the study was to characterize the fish consumption patterns and demographic characteristics of Bay anglers, to identify populations that may be highly exposed to chemicals from eating Bay fish, and to gather information for developing educational activities. The San Francisco Estuary Institute worked with experts from a variety of organizations to assist in the design and review of this study. Between July 1998 and June 1999, field staff conducted over 150 visits to fishing sites, and interviewed over 1300 people in San Francisco Bay. The sites included 14 public piers and nearby shoreline areas, five public boats launches, and party boats from three marinas in the Bay. Interviews were conducted in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, as well as English.

Study Findings

The study found that about one in ten anglers who consume Bay fish eat more than is recommended by the health advisory. Asians and African Americans were more likely to eat above the health advisory limits compared to other groups. Asians were also more likely to follow fish consumption practices such as eating skin that increase their exposure to chemicals. Striped bass was the most commonly consumed species followed by halibut, jacksmelt, sturgeon, and white croaker. Many anglers reported that they share their catch with other members in their household. Overall, the study found that awareness and understanding of the health advisory was poor. About half of the anglers interviewed had not heard or seen information about the advisory.

Fact sheets summarizing the study results are available to be downloaded:

A more complete summary of the study and the full technical report can be found at

Outreach and Education Activities

Currently, EHIB is developing a strategy to conduct outreach and education to people who catch and eat Bay fish. This strategy includes forming a task force with broad representation from affected communities, seeking funding for outreach and education projects, and planning of a public educational forum on fish contamination issues.

For more information about the study, contact:
  • Diana M. Lee or Alyce Ujihara (see links below)

  • Rainer Hoenicke, Ph.D.
    Regional Monitoring Program Manager
    San Francisco Estuary Institute
    1325 S. 46th Street
    Richmond, CA 94804-4603
    (510) 231-9539
For more information about outreach and education efforts in San Francisco Bay, contact:
  • Ian Walker (see link below)
For information about health advisories for the San Francisco Bay and other areas of California, contact:
  • Allan Hirsch
    Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
    California Environmental Protection Agency
    1001 - I Street
    Sacramento, CA 95412
For information about clean-up measures in the Bay, contact:
  • Wil Bruhns
    San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
    1515 Clay Street, Room 1500
    Oakland, CA 94612

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