TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health, municipal governments and local environmental organizations, is again warning anglers and the public not to harvest or consume blue claw crabs from the Lower Passaic River, Newark Bay and surrounding waters this summer and to observe consumption limits in place for fish species in those areas.
The annual multi-agency information campaign reminds the public that sediments in these waterways remain polluted with highly toxic dioxins resulting from the production of Agent Orange many decades ago. Blue crabs from these waterways are unsafe to eat because they are bottom dwellers that absorb cancer-causing dioxins and other contaminants in high levels. Harvesting or eating crabs from these waters is illegal and subject to fines.
“Crabs in these waters are abundant and appear healthy but they are not safe to eat,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “We have to be vigilant about preventing people from eating crabs caught in these waters because they can be harmful to those who consume them, especially vulnerable populations such as infants and children, expectant mothers and women of child-bearing age. In concert with the federal government, we are now working to develop a massive cleanup project that will make these waterways safe for generations in the future, but the warnings remain in effect now.”
In addition to the Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay, tidal waters affected by the crab ban and fish advisories include Arthur Kill, Kill Van Kull, the Elizabeth River, the Hackensack River, and Rahway River.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year chose the Christie Administration’s preferred remedy as its preferred remediation plan for the Lower Passaic River, a plan that could kick-start a long-overdue cleanup of a contaminated eight-mile section of this vital waterway that was once an economic engine for the state and nation.
“It’s important to get the word out about the threat from eating these crabs to the area’s diverse population. Education is critical to making sure people are safe until the river can be properly remediated,” Commissioner Martin said.
As they have for years, the DEP and DOH are working with local municipalities to distribute informative literature and signs about the crab consumption ban and fish consumption advisories. Signs and literature are available in English, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Korean, and Tagalog to make this information as accessible as possible.
Signs are located in places frequented by the public, especially those areas where there is evidence of crabbing activity. The signs warn of the crabs’ toxicity, as well as the legal repercussions associated with harvesting them. Those found harvesting blue claw crabs may face fines ranging from $100 to $3,000. DEP conservation officers patrol these waters to ensure compliance with the ban.
“By heeding the ban on blue claw crabs, anglers can protect the health of themselves and their families,” said Michelle McBean of Future City Inc., a local organization that has long been a partner in this outreach initiative. “These blue claw crabs contain toxins that cannot be removed by cooking. It’s important that the public observe the ban.”
“The DEP, in partnership with the EPA, is looking towards a cleaner, safer Newark Bay Region,” said Commissioner Martin. “Although progress has been made, it remains essential for the public to observe the advisories and bans on species like the blue claw crabs.”
For more about the ban on blue claw crabs, visit: www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/crab-outreach/alert-english.htm
For a full list of fish consumption advisories in New Jersey, visit: www.FishSmartEatSmartNJ.org.
Call 1-866-DEP-KNOW to learn more about where to harvest seafood in New Jersey’s waters.
To learn more about the Lower Passaic River Restoration Project, visit: www.ourpassaic.org.