Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Advocate, April 2006

Winter Flounder Advisory Prompts Tournament to Become a Call to Action

On the opening day of winter flounder season, winter flounder caught in Raritan Bay and Upper New York Bay was added to NJ’s consumption advisory list due to PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination.  The joint advisory from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Department of Health and Senior Services advises that people should only eat one meal per month.  Levels of PCBs in these fish from these waters are up to three times the action level for high-risk populations, defined as infants, children, pregnant and nursing women, and women of childbearing age.


“It is a devastating blow,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action (COA).  “By now, our waters should be clean enough to take species off the list—not add them.  It is imperative that efforts to reduce sources of pollution are improved and that we get tough against polluters.”


PCB hotspots in and around NY/NJ Harbor, especially General Electric (GE) sites on the Hudson River, continue to act as sources of contamination in fish tissues.  According to numerous studies, the dominant source of PCBs in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (as much as 85%) is from GE.  Until the mid-1970s, two GE plants located on the Upper Hudson River discharged over 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the river.  In February 2002, after nearly three decades of study and proposed action, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required GE to remove 2.65 million tons of PCB-contaminated mud from hotspots in a 40-mile stretch of the river.  Recently, GE requested yet another delay to the cleanup plan, arguing that more time is needed to construct and set up remediation sites.  


“PCBs are long-lived, lurking in the sediments of waterways and working their way up the food chain.  The cleanup is essential to the health of marine life and citizens.  Delay of the cleanup is unacceptable,” said Jennifer Samson, Principal Scientist at COA.  


The advisory prompted COA to focus the 12th Annual Winter Flounder Tournament on April 1 (see calendar) on a “Citizens’ Call for Action” to cleanup PCBs in our waterways.  Citizens will be asked to send a video message to GE, and sign petitions that will be sent to NJ Governor Jon Corzine and NY Governor George Pataki.  The petition will call on the Governors to: 

  • Pressure US President Bush to ensure federal agencies hold GE firm to the cleanup deadlines;
  • Require GE to fund additional monitoring of fish contamination throughout the region to protect public health and the marine environment;
  • Prioritize enforcement actions where fish consumption advisories exist to make polluters pay and ensure swift cleanups.

“PCBs threaten the health of marine life, citizens, and the economy.  It is now up to citizens to demand action for healthier waters and hold polluters accountable,” said Kari Jermansen, Outreach Director for COA.


The data prompting NJ to establish the winter flounder advisory have significant implications for many other fish in the region.  Originally, studies showed that fish with lower fat levels, such as winter flounder, do not accumulate PCBs at concentrations high enough to require consumption advisories.  Now, PCB concentrations may be too high in many more fish.


For the updated NJDEP fish consumption advisories, including winter flounder, go to


49 Avenel Blvd.
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Field Office:

Gateway National Recreation Area
Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Voice: (732) 872-0111
FAX: (732) 872-8041

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