Labor Day Weekend will bring a lot of people out to Galveston Bay and area waterways, so we wanted to share one of our favorite seafood recipes:

Of course, we are kidding! No one would want to eat seafood that had toxic chemicals added to it, but every day, local people catch and cook up seafood from areas where fish have been exposed to contamination.

The saying, “you are what you eat” really does apply to fish. When their environment is polluted, they ingest contaminated sediment, plant life, or other fish. The toxins build up in their bodies, especially in the skin and organs. In and around Galveston Bay that can include mercury from industrial sites and pesticides from stormwater runoff. Around areas like the San Jacinto River, which is surrounded by four different Superfund sites, contaminants can include PCBs and Dioxin. Eating contaminated fish can raise your risk of a host of health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney liver and other vital organ failure
  • Severe rashes
  • Birth defects

State officials have tested tissue samples from fish in different areas around Houston and created two advisory areas, as shown on this map.

Upper Galveston Bay (South of Baytown and the Fred Hartman Bridge:  Women of child-bearing age and children under 12 are advised to not eat catfish, spotted seatrout and blue crab.  Everyone else is advised to eat no more than eight ounces a month.

It’s important to know that this is an advisory, not a ban on fishing. The state isn’t saying you can’t fish throughout the Houston metro area.  We’re not saying that either. We love to fish. It means that, if you fish, you should catch-and-release. Your health will thank you…and the fish will too!

Remember we said this was an advisory? Some people are still going to eat fish from local waters. In the interests of safety, they need to understand where toxins tend to accumulate and how to properly filet the fish to avoid those areas. Contaminants like dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish. When fileting fish, it is important to remove the skin, dark (reddish color) muscle tissue, and fatty portions, like belly fat, side fat, and fat

along the top of the back before cooking.

Please don’t ignore the warnings against pregnant women and children eating locally caught seafood!  Contaminants like PCBs and dioxins can cause nerve and kidney damage, poor growth and learning problems in unborn infants and young children.

We need more up-to-date information on contamination levels in locally caught fish. The Texas Department of State Health Services did a study of toxins in fish in 2013 when it issued its last advisory. However, that was nearly 10 years ago. There have been some improvements since then, but there have also been some really big problems, namely Hurricane Harvey.  A study this year by researchers at Texas A&M found that, as Harvey’s floodwaters flowed into the bayous and rivers that feed Galveston Bay, they “delivered a massive load of mercury-rich sediment” into the Bay. Harvey also caused releases from area Superfund and other chemical sites. 

We believe the state needs to update the fish survey to determine whether contamination has improved or gotten worse. And if it’s worse, just how much? One way we call attention to health issues in our area is through THEA’s health survey.  It’s confidential and takes about two minutes to fill out. 

Will you help us?