Rainbow Harbor Piers in Long Beach, a place where you have to be careful what you fish

Photo by Frankie Orrala (April 16, 2021)

This month, through our Angler Outreach Program, we’re spotlighting Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach.

Rainbow Harbor is an area with three mini piers located south of downtown Long Beach, right at the mouth of the Los Angeles River. Like many other local piers, it is a beautiful place for walks, with nearby spots to eat and enjoy fishing. It has a spectacular view that can be enjoyed all day. Rainbow Harbor has benches, and a great view of the park and the historic RMS Queen Mary. Fishing is allowed here, and you don’t even need a fishing license. In Rainbow Harbor, some of the most common fish caught are surf perch, mackerels, halibut, and white croakers.

On a recent visit to Rainbow Harbor, I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of the harbor, and had the privilege to speak with a diverse group of anglers. I was relieved to learn that most of them set out to catch perch or mackerels, for reasons I will discuss below. However, I became concerned when I learned most of them were not aware that the heavily polluted Los Angeles River discharges near the fishing pier.

Unfortunately Rainbow Harbor is within the red zone for fish contamination, and the consumption of white croaker, barred sand bass, black croaker, topsmelt, and barracuda should be avoided due to high levels of contaminants like DDT, PCBS, and mercury in their body tissue. The majority of these contaminants originate from the Montrose Chemical Plant’s illegal dumping activities 30 plus years ago, which creates health concerns for all ocean anglers in LA County to this day. Rainbow Harbor’s close proximity to the mouth of the Los Angeles River means anglers have even more contamination to worry about. The Los Angeles River discharges pollutants such as metals, toxins, and sewage into the ocean, near where these anglers are catching fish to eat.

A wading bird gets sun

That pollution does not originate in the Los Angeles River; it comes from the streets, sidewalks, lawns, and parking lots throughout our communities in the entire watershed. If we are going to protect the health of the anglers who are catching fish and their families, we need to acknowledge and address pollution on our streets, in the Los Angeles River, and in the ocean.

Our Angler Outreach Program, an educational program for shore and pier anglers in Los Angeles and Orange Counties about the risks of consuming contaminated fish will soon continue educating anglers that are fishing in the red zone in-person. The in-person outreach program was paused due to COVID-19. We also continue to encourage all to learn about water quality and ask questions about the latest water quality results at: www.healthebay.org/riverreportcard/

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