Printer Friendly

Bay anglers organize.

San Francisco

"The fishing piers are like the ghettos of the bay," says community organizer Wendall Chin, as he looks out over the glittering expanse of water that stretches between San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley. "Fish and Game doesn't care what happens out here--nobody cares. Poor people, people of color, people who don't speak English. These are not the folks Fish and Game is thinking about."

The Department of Fish and Game, however, is starting to feel political heat from some of the people who regularly cast their lines into San Francisco Bay. Concerned over the possibility of high levels of toxins in the fish they catch, local fisherman have formed a community group they call SAFER (Southbay Anglers for Environmental Rights). They have been organizing on the fishing piers that jut into the bay, using classic community-organizing tactics. Their goal is to persuade the Department of Fish and Game to post multilingual signs on the piers warning about the dangers of eating too much fish from the bay and to force the Department of Health to test fish for the presence of toxins. Activists are simply trying to get the authorities to pay the same attention to their health that they do to the safety of sport fishermen.

If you didn't know the race or class characteristics of a random angler, you could find out by examining his or her catch of the day. If it's striped bass, chances are good the angler is white and is probably not going to eat the fish. If the catch is kingfish, shark, white croaker, sturgeon, or perch, it's a safe bet it was hauled from the bay by a low-income person of color who is planning on fish for dinner.

"Way over 60 per cent of the people who fish from the piers are people of color," says Chin. "And most of them eat what they catch--especially the Vietnamese." Informal interviews conducted on several piers confirmed Chin's observation. All the anglers admitted to eating practically everything they catch, and most said they fished every day. "Some people tell me that the fish are bad to eat," said a McDonald's employee originally from Guatemala, "but I haven't had any problems yet."

Bright yellow placards warn against eating fish from the bay every day, and against pregnant women eating them at all. From the anglers' perspective, however, there are several problems with these health warnings. First, the signs are in English, while most of the anglers speak Cantonese, Vietnamese, Spanish, or Tagalog. Second, the warning only refers to striped bass, a fish generally not caught off the piers. SAFER calls this situation "environmental racism."

The Silicon Valley firms that ring the southern end of the bay dump 30,000 tons of toxic metals into the water every year, according to the environmental group Citizens for a Better Environment. SAFER wants the Health Department to conduct a study of the effects on the fish people actually eat.

SAFER has alreay conducted several community hearings and is in the midst of a postcard campaign aimed at Fish and Game and the Health Department. Whenever Chin and the SAFER members go to the piers, they ask the anglers to send a postcard and to join SAFER.

"It started slowly, but people are starting to recognize us out here now," says Chin, who was trained as an organizer through the Minority Activist Apprenticeship Program run by the Center for Third World Organizing. "Every week a few more people come to the meetings, pay their dues, and get involved."
COPYRIGHT 1993 The Progressive, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:San Francisco Bay fishermen
Author:Anner, John
Publication:The Progressive
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:592
Previous Article:Life behind bars.
Next Article:Urban Peace and Justice Summit.
Topics:


Related Articles
OUTPOST.
WITHOUT LIMITS, DEMISE OF SQUID FEARED.
AT SEA\Live squid sends kids to candy store.
FISH OUT OF WATER; EL NINO BRINGS GIFT FOR ANGLERS.
FISHERMEN FIGHTING BIG UPSTREAM BATTLE.
S.F. EYES LONGER CABLE CAR ROUTE.
CASTAIC RECORD ECLIPSED.
SHARK'S CAPTURE REVEALING : `BIG EMMA' OFFERS CLUES TO MIGRATION.
ROCK THE MOTION CLUB SUING TO INVALIDATE PRESERVATION REGULATIONS.
Publishers Design Group.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters