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Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments

B. Fish Waste Management Measure

Promote sound fish waste management through a combination of fish-cleaning restrictions, public education, and proper disposal of fish waste.

1. Applicability

This management measure is intended to be applied by States to marinas where fish waste is determined to be a source of water pollution. Under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, States are subject to a number of requirements as they develop coastal nonpoint source programs in conformity with this measure and will have some flexibility in doing so. The application of management measures by States is described more fully in Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program: Program Development and Approval Guidance, published jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.


2. Description

Fish waste can result in water quality problems at marinas with large numbers of fish landings or at marinas that have limited fish landings but poor flushing. The amount of fish waste disposed of into a small area such as a marina can exceed that existing naturally in the water at any one time. Fish waste decomposes, which requires oxygen. In sufficient quantity, disposal of fish waste can thus be a cause of dissolved oxygen depression as well as odor problems (DNREC, 1990; McDougal et al., 1986).


3. Management Measure Selection

This measure was selected because marinas have shown the ability to prevent fish-waste-induced water quality or aesthetic problems through implementation of the identified practices. Marinas that cater to patrons who fish a large amount can produce a large amount of fish waste at the marina from fish cleaning. If adequate disposal facilities are not available, there is a potential for disposal of fish waste in areas without enough flushing to prevent decomposition and the resulting dissolved oxygen depression and odor problems. Marina patrons and employees are more likely to properly dispose of fish waste if told of potential consequences and provided adequate and convenient disposal facilities. States require, and many marinas have already implemented, this management measure (Appendix 5A).


4. Practices

As discussed more fully at the beginning of this chapter and in Chapter 1, the following practices are described for illustrative purposes only. State programs need not require implementation of these practices. However, as a practical matter, EPA anticipates that the management measure set forth above generally will be implemented by applying one or more management practices appropriate to the source, location, and climate. The practices set forth below have been found by EPA to be representative of the types of practices that can be applied successfully to achieve the management measure described above.


  • a. Establish fish-cleaning areas.

Particular areas can be set aside or designated for the cleaning of fish, and receptacles can be provided for the waste. Boaters and fishermen should be advised to use only these areas for fish cleaning, and the waste collected in the receptacles should be disposed of properly.


  • b. Issue rules governing the conduct and location of fish-cleaning operations.

Marinas can issue rules regarding the cleaning of fish at the marina, depending on the type of services offered by the marina and its clientele. Marinas not equipped to handle fish wastes may prohibit the cleaning of fish at the marina; those hosting fishing competitions or having a large fishing clientele should establish fish-cleaning areas with specific rules for their use and should establish penalties for violation of the rules.


  • c. Educate boaters regarding the importance of proper fish-cleaning practices.

Boaters should be educated about the problems created by discarding their fish waste into marina waters, proper disposal practices, and the ecological advantages of cleaning their fish at sea and discarding the wastes into the water where the fish were caught. Signs posted on the docks (especially where fish cleaning has typically been done) and talks with boaters during the course of other marina operations can help to educate boaters about marina rules governing fish waste and its proper disposal.


  • d. Implement fish composting where appropriate.

A law passed in 1989 in New York forbids discarding fish waste, with exceptions, into fresh water or within 100 feet of shore (White et al., 1989). Contaminants in some fish leave few alternatives for disposing of fish waste, so Cornell University and the New York Sea Grant Extension Program conducted a fish composting project to deal with the over 2 million pounds of fish waste generated by the salmonid fishery each year. They found that even with this quantity of waste, if composting was properly conducted the problems of odor, rodents, and maggots were minimal and the process was effective (White et al., 1989). Another method of fish waste composting described by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute is suitable for amounts of compost ranging from a bucketful to the quantities produced by a fish-processing plant (Frederick et al., 1989).




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