TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection is reminding residents that harvesting blue claw crabs from the waters of the Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay is dangerous and prohibited.
Multiple studies show crabs from those waters continue to have harmful levels of cancer-causing dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), as well as other contaminants, including mercury. The DEP, along with several community groups and municipalities in the Lower Passaic and Newark Bay region, are continuing to notify area residents of the negative health effects of crabbing in those waters.
“It is very important that people observe the ban on crabbing in this area and not eat the crabs from these waters,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “This is a matter of public health and safety for area residents. Clean waters in New Jersey are in abundance and we strongly recommend people go to those places for healthy fishing and crabbing.”
While some crabs may appear healthy, contaminants found in blue claw crabs and some fish pulled from these waters can be harmful to fetuses and infants. Women of child-bearing years, pregnant women and nursing mothers, in particular, are urged not to ingest these crabs from this region. Children are also at risk of developmental and neurological problems if these crabs are eaten.
“There is no way to prepare crabs from these waters to make them safe for consumption,’’ said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd
Persons who violate the crabbing ban in the Lower Passaic and Newark Bay are subject to fines ranging from $300 to $3,000 for a first offense.
The blue claw crab, a bottom feeder and dweller that absorbs contaminants in sediments, has become more abundant in the Passaic River and Newark Bay complex due to the prohibition on commercial crabbing. This increased size and abundance has made crabs even more attractive to harvest for some people.
To inform residents of risks of eating blue claw crabs pulled from the Lower Passaic River and Newark Bay aquatic complex, the DEP is working with the State Department of Health (DOH), local partners, and officials of 44 municipalities and six counties — Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Union and Passaic – affected by this issue.
DOH has a new brochure entitled, “Got Your Claws in New Jersey Blue Crab?” that is available in English and Spanish, which advises consumers on crab consumption from these waters and how it can cause serious illness. For more information and a look at the new brochure, visit http://www.state.nj.us/health/foodanddrugsafety/ssp.shtml.
The region in question is a highly industrialized urban area that includes Newark Bay, the Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull, and the tidal portions of the Hackensack, Passaic, Elizabeth, and Rahway rivers.
In 2005, the DEP and State Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the companies responsible for the intentional discharge of dioxins into the Lower Passaic River. At that time, dioxin concentrations in Passaic River crabs and fish were among the highest in the world.
In March, the first stage of a two-phase project under direction of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to remove dioxin-contaminated and cancer-causing sediments from a small portion of the lower Passaic River commenced. Responsible parties have now removed about 40,000 cubic yards of dioxin-contaminated sediments from a segment of the river in Newark. The second phase calls for the removal of about 160,000 cubic yards of sediment from the same section of river.
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