Residents warned against fishing in sewage-contaminated water

SAN DIEGO -- More rain means more sewage runoff from the Tijuana River Valley.

The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health announced Wednesday that it has expanded the water contact closure area. People are being told not to go into the water at Imperial Beach, Silver Strand State Beach and Coronado beaches. However, the warning is not stopping people from fishing in the area, so FOX 5 reached out to ask if that is safe.

According to David Gibson, executive officer of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, it is not a good idea.

In a statement to FOX 5, he said:

"As a basic rule of thumb, when beaches and bays are posted (i.e. are closed) for recreational use, it is not advisable to be fishing.  Right now, with the heavy storms and high flows in the Tijuana River, those waters are severely impacted by raw sewage and storm water runoff that contains potentially dangerous viruses and bacteria.  Although the fish themselves are probably safe to eat if fully cooked, the act of fishing itself exposes anglers to pathogens through contact with the water, handling the fish and the tackle, etc.   Anglers can easily ingest those pathogens from that incidental contact and can become very sick.  In 2015, a local surfer died of a Vibrio infection after surfing off Pt. Loma in conditions not unlike those we are seeing today, so anglers need to take every precaution including waiting for a few days after the storm for the river to stop flowing and for the coastal waters to clear."

Even after hearing that, fishermen at the Imperial Beach pier told FOX 5 they will continue to fish there.

“It’s something I really enjoy doing. I’ve been fishing for 20 plus years in Imperial Beach where I grew up and I’ve never gotten sick from fishing. I sometimes eat halibut or sea bass if I catch them and no problem,” Alex Schmid said. “Now that they’re saying there’s more bacteria and so forth, I tend to wash my hands thoroughly, especially before I get home."

Imperial Beach officials add that king tides are expected to start rolling in on Friday and are asking everyone to think safety first and stay out of the water.

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