California Fisheries Oil Spill Closure Lifted

Orange County, California
Crude oil in the Pacific Ocean offshore of Orange County, California on Oct. 3, 2021. Photo by USCG Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Brahm.

A fisheries closure implemented in early October after more than 25,000 gallons of oil leaked from a pipeline has been lifted, and fisheries from Huntington Beach to Dana Point in Orange County, California, are back in business.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) notified the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday, Nov. 30, that there’s no further risk to public health from seafood consumption in the affected area and recommends that fishing and consumption of seafood from the area resume.

The closure implemented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Oct. 3 prohibited the take of all fish and shellfish in that area, including the shorelines and offshore areas and all bays.

OEHHA had determined that a threat to public health was likely from consuming fish in the affected area. In the following days, the original closure area was expanded to include 650 square miles of marine waters and about 45 miles of shoreline, including all bays and harbors from Seal Beach to San Onofre State Beach. The Coast Guard reported that the spill covered about 13 square miles.

OEHHA sampled seafood in the area from Oct. 14 to Nov. 3 in order to measure and evaluate levels of certain chemicals found in oil, known as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Officials noted that PAHs can accumulate in species caught for human consumption, causing an increased risk for cancer and other adverse health issues. CDFW officials said that final reports and data summaries are to be made publicly available on OEHHA’s website in the near future.