Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program Manager, Frankie Orrala, shares the program’s positive impacts and successes from over the last 17 years.
Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program (AOP) is celebrating 17 years! This program is designed to educate pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with toxins such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Created in 2003, AOP is a component of the Fish Contamination Education Collaboration (FCEC) and managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program. Notably, the program also works in association with federal and state agencies as well as local community organizations.
The FCEC was established to address a major contamination site (aka Superfund site) off the coast of Los Angeles, along the Palos Verdes shelf. DDT and PCBs were historically discharged into the ocean near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, pollution which still exists in the sediment today. These toxins can travel through the food chain into fish and potentially have negative impacts on human health if the fish are eaten; certain species of fish and certain areas are more likely to be contaminated.
The goal of the AOP is to educate anglers about this contamination and share which fish should be avoided. During visits to different piers in Southern California, Heal the Bay’s educational team has interacted with diverse fishing communities and outreach is conducted in multiple languages. Heal the Bay is proud to have a team of bilingual staff who have educated Southern California pier anglers in multiple languages, including: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Khmer and Russian.
Since its inception 17 years ago, Heal the Bay’s AOP team has educated more than 170,000 pier anglers. Along the way, we have heard many stories and learned a lot about the people who frequently fish on our local piers. We appreciate these anglers and the knowledge and experiences they share with us.
Awards Received at the National Level
In 2009, the EPA presented two prestigious awards to the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative. FCEC was recognized for its work to protect the most vulnerable populations in Southern California from the health risks of consuming fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs; the other award was given to Heal the Bay and all FCEC partners in Los Angeles for Achievement in Environmental Justice.
On behalf of the AOP and Heal the Bay, I traveled to Washington D.C. to receive the distinguished award in recognition of Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement. This award is presented annually to an individual or community group working with a Superfund team for outstanding achievements in the field of environmental protection.
Heal the Bay was thrilled to be selected to present to the FCEC among other national projects. The recognition was significant as it confirmed Heal the Bay’s work is truly protecting the health of all people, especially communities with economic and social disadvantages.
2009 Award Winner: Frankie Orrala of Heal the Bay receiving the Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement and Environmental Justice Achievement Awards
In addition to accepting this award in Washington D.C, in 2009, I traveled to Ecuador in South America, along with scientists from the National Fisheries Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesca) as well as professors, researchers and students from the University of Guayaquil. We came together to talk about FCEC’s efforts to monitor pollution and educate the public about its effect on human and environmental health.
The international interest our program receives is an honor; the AOP team is busy building on these relationships and with more communities as they are facing similar problems as Southern California.
Continuing to advance environmental justice is a critical objective of our work. Moving forward, Heal the Bay’s AOP program remains committed to educating and protecting chronically underserved populations in the region, many of whom are exposed to higher rates of pollution compared to the general population.
In closing, there are many reasons for the AOP team’s continued success, from our great team members to the communities we work with, to the experts who are providing us with advice. All of it wouldn’t be possible without Heal the Bay’s dedicated supporters and for that we say THANK YOU!