Q: My buddies and I fish for rockfish out of Pillar Point Harbor and are very careful about following the rules. We usually return with legal limits. However, on occasion one or more of my fishing friends decides not to take their entire catch home. When that happens, I might leave the marina parking lot with my 10 fish as well as additional fish caught by other licensed fishers. I’m thinking that since we caught them legally and returned to the dock legally, we are OK. Am I right? (Bill L., Half Moon Bay)
A: No. You cannot ever be in possession of more than the possession limit, even if the extra fish came from another angler who caught them legally. Your buddy may only give away fish to someone who does not already have a limit in their possession. If you have your limit and then take additional fish from another angler, you may be cited for having an overlimit regardless of who gave them to you.
Processing Game Meat
Q: A friend shot a wild pig and while skinning it he saw worms in the armpits and groin area. He cut out and discarded the surrounding meat, and processed and ate the rest. Is this a seasonal problem? Was this meat safe to eat? If one gets an infected pig, how should one dispose of the bad meat or entire carcass? Bury it (how deep)? Burn it? Toss into the trash can within tightly sealed plastic bags? (Ray, Arbuckle)
A: Adult Trichinella worms are found primarily in the gut of the host, whereas larval, or immature, worms tend to be present throughout the rest of the body. According to UC Davis graduate student Jamie Sherman and California Department of Fish & Game senior wildlife veterinarian Ben Gonzales, only adult Trichinella worms are visible to the human eye, and are described as “white flakes” along the intestines. Larvae within the muscles are only visible under a microscope. Therefore, it is unlikely the worms seen in your friend’s pig carcass were Trichinella.
Other parasitic worms can infect wild pigs, though, such as the pork tapeworm Taenia solis, which can appear in the meat as “measly pork”, much as you describe. Ingestion of raw or undercooked infected pork results in tapeworm infection in the human gut (taeniasis). These tapeworms produce larvae that can be shed in the feces of the human host, and once ingested by other human or animal hosts, the larvae penetrate the gut and migrate to sites such as the muscles, eyes or nervous system and can cause serious disease (cysticercosis).
Your friend took the right steps to protect himself if he cooked the meat adequately. Removing the measly areas for appearance and then cooking the rest of the meat to an internal temperature using a meat thermometer to 160 degrees Fahrenheit will eliminate the risk of infection from the pork tapeworm as well as from Trichinella. By cooking the meat thoroughly to 160 F and by following safe meat handling practices such as washing hands and disinfecting utensils and cutting boards thoroughly after handling raw meat, you can prevent parasitic and bacterial infections derived from consuming wild game or domestically raised meat.
Trichinella and other parasitic worms are not a seasonal problem, but a lifelong disease. Once an animal is infected, larval worms can remain in the muscle tissue for the lifetime of the host. Humans then get sick when they consume raw or undercooked meat containing the larvae.
Regarding various recommendations for proper carcass disposal:
» Burial: There is no specific depth requirement for the disposal of carcasses via burial. The goal of burying a carcass is to prevent other scavengers from consuming the potentially infective meat. Therefore, they should not be able to dig it up. Burying the carcass a few feet under the ground should be sufficient. It is also important to make sure your burial site is not within 100 feet of any water source, in order to prevent contamination.
» Burning: This is an effective tool for destroying pathogens and reducing the volume of solid waste. However, since the act of burning can increase the risk of wildfires and can create potent fumes, it is important to make sure to follow safe fire practices.
» Trash: Disposing of carcasses in the trash is discouraged because once the carcass reaches the landfill it has the potential to be scavenged by other animals (e.g. rats, raccoons or even other wild pigs). Determined scavengers can easily break open plastic bags. There are, however, some landfills that are specially permitted to safely dispose of carcasses. Local county health department officials can help identify these landfills.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has excellent online articles on trichinellosis at www.cdc.gov/parasites/trichinellosis/, taeniasis at www.cdc.gov/parasites/taeniasis/ and cysticercosis at www.cdc.gov/parasites/cysticercosis/index.html.