Na Heo fishes off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched an effort to
Na Heo fishes off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched an effort to create an artificial reef off the Belmont Pier hoping to introduce fish not contaminated by polluted sediment. (Brittany Murray/Staff Photographer)

LONG BEACH - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have launched an effort to create an artificial reef off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier to introduce fish not contaminated by polluted sediment.

Five fish species found within surrounding waters of the pier - extending all the way north to Santa Monica Pier and down to Seal Beach Pier - have high levels of PCB and mercury contamination, according to NOAA scientists.

However, the proposal has raised some concern at the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Robert Palmer, veteran chairman of the chapter, said Friday there's concern that the project would impact the timing for planning on the reconfiguration of the breakwater.

The chapter, he added, has been involved for 16 years in planning the reconfiguration, which could include creating holes in the seawall, to improve water conditions and wave action along the city's shoreline. The breakwater work, long supported by city officials, still must be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Anything built in the area may potentially impact the plans for the breakwater," Palmer said. "Until this reconfiguring feasibility study is done, we shouldn't build anymore structures that might impact that."

Seven modules consisting of 24,925 tons of rock from quarries on Catalina Island will make up the artificial reef, benefiting pier anglers by attracting a greater diversity of fish species than the sand habitat that now surrounds the fishing site, scientists say.


Advertisement

The proposed reef would cover a quarter of a 10-acre area along the pier.

Some modules would be within the pier's casting distance, and additional modules would assist with sustaining fishing levels for the entire reef.

The project could cost an estimated $2.5 million and it would be funded through the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program resources, according to Gabrielle Dorr, outreach coordinator for MSRP/NOAA.

The Montrose Settlements Restoration Program is designed to restore fishing opportunities that were lost because of the releases of DDTs and PCBs into the ocean off of Palos Verdes peninsula between the 1940s and 1970s. The program is funded through a 2001 settlement with the chemical companies that had released the contaminants into the ocean.

The chemical contaminants are still present in the sediments on the Palos Verdes Shelf and are found in the tissues of certain fish.

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard and Assessment warns against consuming five fish species caught at the pier.

Marine organisms that feed on the contaminants are eaten by fish, building up the chemicals in their tissues.

Na Heo fishes off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched an effort to
Na Heo fishes off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched an effort to create an artificial reef off the Belmont Pier hoping to introduce fish not contaminated by polluted sediment. (Brittany Murray/Staff Photographer)

White croaker are the most contaminated fish species found around the Belmont Pier, living along sandy bottom habitat.

Other fish also are suspect, including the black croaker, queenfish and surfperch. Signs there warn fishermen against eating these fish.

Building an artificial reef in this area would discourage white croaker from spending time there, while attracting a greater diversity of fish that are safer to eat, NOAA scientists say.

MSRP has completed all of the required environmental studies for the project and plans to finalize environmental documents for the project in the next few months, said NOAA fisheries biologist David Witting.

MSRP would consider comments from the public during a 45-day period.

After all documents are finalized, MSRP hopes to begin construction on the project during winter 2014.

joe.segura@presstelegram.com

562-714-2167

twitter.com/JoeSeguraPT