The White Croaker and Asian American Eating Habits

Officials from the California Department of Fish and Game having been going to fishing piers and Chinese and Vietnamese markets in Southern California looking for people catching or buying white croaker (pictured).  This article from the San Jose Mercury News mentions that

Genyonemus_lineatus_mspc102Ocean in the 1970s.   The white croaker, which became popular in local Asian markets and restaurants, doesn’t metabolize these chemicals like other fish and thus is a hazard to humans who consume them.  White croakers caught off the Palos Verdes peninsula and a number of other Southern California locations should not be eaten.  You can’t tell a contaminated white croaker from a clean one without testing.  While there are projects underway to seal the contaminated sites, that process will take many years to complete.  It will also be many years after that for the white croakers to become less contaminated.

Officials are encouraging Asian Americans to use only filets of fish and when cooking, to steam them, which makes toxin laden fat drip out.  They are also discouraging Asian Americans from using fish heads in their soup, as a way of reducing chemical exposure.    While I think it is laudable that the Fish and Game Department is considering Asian cultural processes and Asian America subsistence fishing as part of their work, that last part seems somehow wrong to me.  I like fish heads  in soup!  They add a lot of flavor and are not wasted [quick aside – did anyone else’s parents get free fish heads from grocery stores?   My mother laments that there is so much demand from Asians that they charge for fish heads these days].  I suppose officials could also encourage some of the vegetarian traditions that are present in a number of Asian cultures, but I’d venture that would be unpopular with certain industries and government departments.

You can check out the official California warnings and recommendations for eating California fish.  I find the specificity of the warnings to be amazing (and somewhat suspicious).  For example, you should eat only one white croaker caught off of the ocean side of the Long Beach/Los Angeles breaker water per month, but don’t any white croakers caught in the Long Beach/Los Angeles harbor.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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