EPA challenged on fish consumption rate

Cross posted from Keep Seafood Clean.

A group of environmental groups and commercial fisherman (some of whom are our partners of the Keep Seafood Clean Coalition) filed a lawsuit on Friday to force the federal government to raise Washington State’s fish consumption rate.

You can find the actual complaint here.

Here’s a clip from the AP story:

The groups, including Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Columbia Riverkeeper and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, reason that if the estimates were more realistic, the state would have to more strictly regulate emmissions of mercury, lead, copper and other toxins – a prospect that concerns industry groups and that emerged as a sticking point in budget talks in Olympia last spring.

The state Ecology Department has worked for years on updating the fish consumption estimates, but Janette Brimmer, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit, said it has amounted only to so much dithering. EPA’s failure to make the state update its consumption estimates violates the Clean Water Act, she said.

“Washington has known for years their estimates are inappropriate and inaccurate,” she said. “They keep having task forces and roundtables, and nothing is happening. My clients finally said enough is enough.”

Washington’s estimate is that average fish consumption amounts to just 8 ounces – roughly one fillet – per person, per month. That figure originally came from federal guidelines published in 1990, but the EPA began backing away from that more than a decade ago and urging states to adopt more realistic estimates.

Surveys show that actual fish consumption rates in Washington are vastly higher, especially among certain populations such as American Indian tribes, sport and commercial fishermen, Asians, and Pacific Islanders – some of which average as much as the equivalent of a moderate-sized fillet per day, rather than per month.