The Department of Ecology recently decided not to change the fish consumption rate in Washington. The rate is important because it drives regulatory standards for water quality. In other words how much seafood we eat determines how clean our water is.Indian tribes and environmentalists say the current rate is dangerously low. Lesley McClurg explains.
Jim Peters has been a longtime fisherman.
Peters: "My kids, we eat a lot of fish, and shellfish. Let’s just say during fishing season where we are consuming a lot more than any, we might eat fish of some sort, shellfish or fish three times a week."
Peters is a member of the Squaxin Tribal Council. His family owns a shellfish company that’s been in the family for three generations. He’s says the current fish consumption rate is only a fraction of what his family or his tribe eats on a daily basis.
Right now the State says Washingtonians eat 6.5 grams of seafood a day. That’s about the size of an oyster. Peters says that average is way too low. He eats more like 300 grams a day – or more than a dozen oysters worth.
Everyone agrees the current rate needs to be increased. The debate is over how much we really are eating.
The Department of Ecology says the fish consumption rate should be about 200 grams a day. But, a higher consumption rate requires cleaner water and that would cost cities and industries more money.
Carl Schroeder represents the Association of Washington Cities. He says the Department of Ecology’s push for change was too fast and decisions were being made without enough data.
Schroeder: "The numbers that were floating around and the way they would have been implement there was not the technology available to actually clean up to the standard that would have been required to that number."
In other words water quality treatment plants are not currently set up to clean our water to a higher standard.
The state has considered this argument and decided not to change the fish consumption rate. Instead of applying a single rate to the entire state the Department of Ecology is going to regulate water quality on a site by site basis.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio