Toxic flame retardants quickly declined in Bay-caught fish, once banned, but legacy mercury persists, according to the most recent year of sampling. As the region’s collaborative monitoring program for Bay contaminants — the RMP — arrives at its 25th birthday, its long-term commitment to consistent data collection for the purposes of targeted environmental management is showing its mettle.
The RMP has been catching and testing a wide array of species of popular sport fish, ranging from giant sturgeon to tiny sardines, since 1997. This June the program debuts the latest results. There’s good news, bad news, and no news. PBDEs, those sticky flame retardants linked to cancer, and sprayed on fabrics and couches, have continued their steady decline over the last four sampling runs: the good news results of a recent ban. The bad news is stain and water repellents (PFASs), very widely used, are emerging as the next contaminant getting into our Bay fish in need of attention. “Consumer products used in our households and workplaces [are easier to target than contaminants added to the Bay over decades and settled in the sediments],” says San Francisco Estuary Institute scientist Jennifer Sun. “They can respond very quickly to management actions while legacy contaminants are tougher to control.”