[Coral-List] Methyl Mercury in Commercial Important Coral Reef Fishes

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Mon Feb 24 14:37:00 EST 2014

    Some people are aware that canned tuna also contains mercury.  The US
Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines on how much canned tuna
can safely be eaten per week (
http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/tuna.asp).  There was an effort
to get the tuna industry or the grocery stores in the states to post
notices that people should limit their consumption, but they didn't do it.
     I used to be puzzled about how mercury got into the oceans, far from
land, and then went up the food chain getting concentrated in top predators
like tuna.  Then I read that much or most of it comes from the smoke
emitted by coal-fired electric generating plants.  It goes up in the air,
is carried by the air out over the oceans, and eventually rain picks it out
of the air and takes it down into the oceans, where it enters the food
chain.  Most likely, that means that large amounts of it are being emitted
by coal burning plants in China and India, and entering the huge brown
clouds of polluted air those countries produce, which are then carried by
winds out over the oceans near them.  Those brown clouds may be more toxic
than the African dust clouds the Caribbean gets (?).
     So burning coal pollutes the air near the plants (such as around
Bejing) which damages people's health, it also puts mercury into the oceans
and into our food supply which poisons people, and it adds lots of CO2 to
the atmosphere, which traps heat, and adds to the temperatures during ENSO
(El Nino Southern Oscillation) events which cause bleaching and kill
corals.  Many other countries burn lots of coal as well, including the US.
     Coal is cheap, which is why developing countries like the US and UK
used it during their development in the 1800's and China and India are
using it now.  At one point the "London fog" produced by burning coal
killed thousands of people in London, US cities were blackened with soot,
and so on.  I read news stories that China realizes it must start
generating electricity in other ways as fast as it can, they are well aware
of this problem.  Let us hope it happens quickly.  The US still emits lots
of pollution from coal fired plants.  A typical plant emits 170 pounds of
mercury a year, 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (principle cause of acid
rain) 114 pounds of lead, 720 tons of carbon monoxide, and 225 pounds of
arsenic, among other things.  All highly toxic.  Coal still is used to
produce half of the electricity the US uses.  It is the dirtiest of all
fuels.  A new port proposed in Australia will export huge quantities of
coal to India where it will be burned to make electricity and pollute the
air, and the dredging of the port in Australia needed to export the coal
will produce dredge spoils that will be disposed of in the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park (though not directly on the reefs).  In 1993, the US
produced about $19 billion (with a "B") of coal a year, employing 100,000
miners.  It is big business.  Dirty business, that kills people.  There are
cleaner alternatives.
    Cheers,  Doug

Union of Concerned Scientists:
"*Mercury:* Coal plants are responsible for more than half of the U.S.
human-caused emissions of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that causes brain
damage and heart problems. Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited
on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. A typical uncontrolled
coal plants emits approximately 170 pounds of mercury each year. Activated
carbon injection technology can reduce mercury emissions by up to 90
percent when combined with baghouses. ACI technology is currently found on
just 8 percent of the U.S. coal fleet."

"according to a 2004 report, U.S. power plant pollution contributes to
nearly 24,000 premature deaths each year"

On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 10:53 AM, Arrecifes de coral <
corales2006 at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
> Regarding the question about the relevance of
> fishing lionfishes in the Caribbean, to diminish the fishing pressure on
> the
> native species, the Foundation ICRI Colombia in Pro of Coral Reefs is
> considering
> open a national market for lionfish consumption. However, prior to do that
> We consider
> also the risk to human health of bioaccumulation on coral reef predators
> due to
> pollution from human activities. Therefore, our Foundation is advising the
> Colombian Government within our programs of CO-Management and
> "Publications for
> Public Actions" that one of the criteria for defining the maximum sizes to
> catch coral reef fishes of commercial importance, should be the
> concentrations
> of Methyl Mercury in the dorsal muscle of the catches as the indicator for
> allowing the establishment of legal catches of coral reef fishes of
> commercial
> importance with concentrations being less than the regulatory threshold for
> limited human consumption established by the World Health Organization, to
> avoid risk to human health.
> According to the publication of Huge et al.
> 2014, in Marine Pollution
> www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X13007200?np=y, the
> concentrations of Methyl Mercury in the muscle of the lionfishes from
> Florida
> are still under the maximum level allowed by WHO. However, this study is an
> alert to the Methyl Mercury bioaccumulation in big fishes in coral reef
> areas.
> Since, the measurement in Lionfishes resulted to be lower than the levels
> found
> in other native commercial species that are being catched intensively for
> consumption.  The problem of bioaccumulation links the two
> major threatens to coral reefs the pollution and overfishing.
> We learnt from a literature search that the
> FDA-EPA of the United States and the Florida Department of Health define
> personal
> dosages in case that bio accumulation of any kind of pollutants be found in
> fishes for consumption. Then we have add in our webpages for general
> preventive
> information following the precautionary official advise for countries
> without
> enough information that we should respect the maximum dosage according to
> our
> body weight: a NRDC Mercury Calculator
> http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/calculator/calc.asp  and a
> chart
> https://scontent-b-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/l/t1/1545777_649060008463398_1861681058_n.jpg
> .
> Therefore, We welcome your comments for us about a potential environmental
> campaign that may be focused in that each Colombian should eat healthy
> fishes
> free of pollutants like lionfishes at a dosage of 100 grams per person per
> week. Meanwhile, We wait for the official communication requested to the
> Colombian
> Government based on their researchers of the National Institute of Health..
> We
> have encouraged academic debates with scientists from different
> Universities
> and NGOs so all get in their research agenda the interest for scientific
> measurements of Methyl Mercury and other pollutants in the lionfishes.
> It is relevant to hear the experiences and
> measurements from other countries where there is lionfish consumption; we
> know
> that in Jamaica the Methyl Mercury in Lionfish was still safe that means
> lower
> than the maximum allowed by WHO. The Foundation ICRI Colombia is ad portas
> to
> open a massive market for the delicious invader lionfish which may
> represent an
> alternative for food security and better life quality for fishermen, and an
> environmental economic control to the invasive species. Thus, we are
> requesting
> the Colombian Government INVIMA and MADS to take into account this
> indicator of
> Bioaccumulation to establish the maximum size for lionfish consumption in
> case
> that is found Methyl Mercury in the muscle of lionfishes.
> Cordial saludo, Nohora Galvis Directora EjecutivaFundación ICRI Colombia
> en Pro de los Arrecifes Coralinoshttp://icri-colombia.es.tl/--Follow us
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> de imprimir reflexiona si es necesario...
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Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

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