May 10th, 2013 - Jill Ettinger
Texas has heightened its concern over mercury levels in fish being caught off the Gulf coast of the state, according to The Department of State Health Services, which made the announcement earlier this week.
Read More:Major Mercury Warning for Texas-Caught Fish
December 14th, 2012 - Jill Ettinger
Research conduced by the ocean conservation group, Oceana, has found frequent mislabeling of fish on menus and in grocery stores throughout New York City.
Read More:New York City Awash with Fish Fraud in Restaurants and Supermarkets
March 25th, 2011 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
At this year’s Boston Seafood Show, which opened on March 20th, worldwide organic farming advocate Naturland is urging the fishing industry to consider more eco-friendly fishing techniques.
Hans Hohenester, chairman of the Naturland board of directors, says current fishing practices are unnatural, unsustainable, and contaminate waters with harmful chemicals and antibiotics.
That’s why Naturland has impressive standards and strict procedures for ensuring organic and sustainable production.
Read More:Naturland Promoting Eco Fishing & Aquaculture
October 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When researchers at the University of Las Vegas tested mercury levels in canned tuna, they were in for a rude awakening.
Of the 300 samples tested, representing three top national brands (unnamed):
- 55% exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for mercury levels ( 0.5 parts per million, or ppm).
- 5% of the samples exceeded 1.0 ppm.
Read More:Canned Tuna Fails Mercury Test
July 8th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
In the United States, Asian carp is an invasive species, i.e. not native. And when you abruptly introduce a foreign species – either plant or animal – into a existing ecosystem it usually wreaks havoc.
And the Asian carp is doing just that.
The fish is thriving in places like Kentucky and Illinois, so fishermen looking to catch catfish end up snagging more carp than catfish, which wouldn’t be a problem if it was easy to sell.
Asian carp’s reputation as a foreign invader is a turnoff to consumers.
So Kentucky State University has a brilliant – or totally idiotic – idea. Last night, Stephen Colbert reported that researchers from the university want to rename Asian carp, changing it to “Kentucky Tuna.” They hope the name change will be the public relations bump Asian carp needs.
I’m still cracking up over “Street Veal” and “Sink Lobster” – freaking hilarious!
If you’re wondering why a potentially destructive species was brought to the U.S. in the first place, it was done with good intentions…I guess. Carp were introduced in order to clean up algae in catfish ponds. Carp are bottom feeders.
And actually it’s because carp eat the junk at the bottom of ponds that might be their saving grace, not the silly name change; consuming algae means “Kentucky Tuna” is low in mercury and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Image credit: Colbert Nation
Read More:Asian Carp Gets a New Name, “Kentucky Tuna”
June 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While mercury concentrations in freshwater fish are much higher than in saltwater fish, Duke University researchers have found that saltwater fish—including tuna, mackerel and shark—are a greater health threat to humans.
In freshwater, harmful methylmercury latches onto decayed plants and animal matter, which sunlight can more easily break down. But in seawater, methylmercury latches onto chloride (salt), which doesn’t degrade as easily, and marine life ingests it.
Fish and shellfish have a natural tendency to store methylmercury in their organs, which makes them the leading source of mercury ingestion for humans. A potent neurotoxin, methylmercury can cause kidney problems, neurological disorders and even death, says Heileen Hsu-Kim, PhD, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. Fetuses exposed to it can develop the same conditions, as well as learning disabilities.
Ingested mercury accumulates in the human body, and Dr. Hsu-Kim says Americans have a high rate of exposure. In fact, 8% of U.S. women exhibit levels that exceed national guidelines.
Dr. Hsu-Kim believes scientists and policymakers should focus on the effects of mercury in oceans instead of freshwater. (Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration make no distinction.)
As you make your grocery list, check mercury levels in specific fish and seafood by visiting the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector.
Read More:Study Compares Mercury Levels in Freshwater vs. Saltwater Fish
June 16th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have ramped up inspection efforts to ensure fish and seafood from areas near the BP oil spill are safe to eat.
“Closing harvest waters that could be exposed to oil protects the public from potentially contaminated seafood because it keeps the product from entering the food supply,” says NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, PhD.
Fishery areas were first closed May 2, and closures have been adjusted based on the spill’s trajectory (to include a 5-nautical-mile buffer).
To help prevent tainted seafood from reaching the marketplace, NOAA is collecting, sampling and inspecting commercial and recreational fish and shellfish from areas the spill has yet to reach. Ongoing surveillance will determine whether contamination has occurred and new areas must be closed.
The FDA’s initial targets are oysters, crab and shrimp, which retain contaminants longer than finfish. First in line for inspection are processors who buy seafood directly from harvesters.
“We recognize that the effects of the oil spill continue to grow as oil continues to flow,” Dr. Lubchenco says. “As remediation efforts continue, it may be possible to alleviate some of the economic harm caused by the oil spill by reopening previously closed areas. NOAA will reopen areas only if assured that fish products taken from these areas meet FDA standards for public health.”
“FDA has set up a hotline for reporting seafood safety issues,” adds FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD. “We encourage fishermen and consumers to report potential contamination to (888) INFO-FDA.”
Photo courtesy of NOAA
Read More:Federal Agencies Assess Gulf Seafood
May 6th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Craving shrimp, crab, oysters and other seafood indigenous to the Gulf Coast?
Good luck finding them.
Supermarkets and restaurants are taking fish and seafood off their menus—a result of the British Petroleum oil spill that’s threatening area wildlife and marine animals.
And if you do happen to locate these ocean delicacies, expect to pay a substantial premium.
Todd Waldschmidt, manager and seafood buyer for Peoria, IL-based Jonah’s Seafood House, told the Peoria Journal Star that the greatest price increases may be felt toward summer’s end. Similarly, restaurants and grocers from New York to California may be forced to jack up prices or source seafood from overseas.
A $2.5 Billion Price Tag
As the Environmental Defense Fund notes:
“A huge fraction of the fish production in the region is at risk—a body blow both to marine ecosystems and the multibillion-dollar coastal industries tied to commercial fishing and seafood, and sport fisheries and recreation. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to models of sustainability.”
CNBC reports the ultimate price tag for spill cleanup may exceed $14 billion. As for the seafood industry, Louisiana could lose $2.5 billion.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has restricted fishing in the area, and its scientists are testing water and seafood samples.
“There are finfish, crabs, oysters and shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico near the area of the oil spill,” confirms NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator Roy Crabtree. “The Gulf is such an important biologic and economic area in terms of seafood production and recreational fishing.”
NOAA estimates that Gulf Coast commercial fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on healthy seas, harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.
Read More:Oil Spill Creates Seafood Shortage
April 18th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Thursday is Earth Day!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a guidance designed to strengthen requirements for Appalachian mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining projects.
The agency’s stated goal is prevention of significant and irreversible damage to Appalachian watersheds at risk from mining activity.
It’s too little, too late. The practice of mountaintop removal to access eco-filthy coal must be banned altogether.
Waste & Water Quality
Even the EPA admits that a growing body of scientific literature shows significant damage to local streams that are polluted with runoff from mountaintop removal.
As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) notes:
“Just one mountaintop removal mine can lay bare up to 10 square miles and pour hundreds of millions of tons of waste material into as many as a dozen ‘valley fills’—some of which are 1,000 feet wide and a mile long.”
This waste can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and rendering streams unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking. It’s estimated that almost 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been buried by mountaintop coal mining.
Salt Levels Kill Fish
A new EPA report establishes a scientific benchmark for unacceptable levels of conductivity (a measure of water pollution from mining practices). The EPA says its new parameters are intended to protect 95% of aquatic life and freshwater streams in central Appalachia.
And the other 5% (assuming the EPA is even close to being right)?
Runoff from dumped mining materials raises salinity level, turning fresh water into salty water. When this happens, living organisms must struggle to survive.
As with any federal guidance, EPA will solicit public comments; however, the guidance will be effective immediately on an interim basis. EPA will decide whether to modify the guidance after consideration of public comments and further technical review.
How You Can Help
Please sign the NRDC’s petition, which asks Congress to pass the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696). It would end mountaintop-removal mining and prevent coal companies from dumping waste into streams.
The bill is also supported by the Sierra Club and Earthjustice—and, not surprisingly, opposed by the National Mining Association.
For Your Organic Bookshelf
Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future
Photo: nrdc_media | Creative Commons
Read More:EPA Guidance on Mining Endangers Environment
April 5th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Mountaintop mining involves blasting off the top of a mountain so excess rock can be pushed to a neighboring valley. This allows miners to more easily reach coal.
The eco-obnoxious practice, which has doubled in the last 8 years, has buried more than 1,000 miles of Appalachian streams over the last 20 years.
Now, residents in states like West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky are finding huge numbers of dead and deformed fish, a result of toxic selenium that leaches into rivers and streams.
High selenium levels threaten fish survival and reproduction, and contaminated fish have offspring with serious birth defects—from crooked spines to deformed heads. Ultimately, the fish population could be wiped out.
Selenium pollution affects fish first, so they serve as a barometer for future damage to ecosystems and human health.
“Once in the aquatic environment, waterborne selenium can enter the food chain and reach levels that are toxic to fish and wildlife,” says Dennis Lemly, PhD, a research professor of biology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC.
“The threat is expanding as use of this destructive process expands,” he adds. “Once these ecosystems are polluted, damage to the environment is permanent.”
Taking It to Washington, DC
Dr. Lemly, who supports tougher regulations on the disposal of coal waste, was part of a 12-member team of ecologists and engineers who provided the first comprehensive analysis of damage caused by mountaintop removal mining. He and his colleagues shared their scientific findings in February with representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
Dr. Lemly has studied West Virginia’s Mud River Reservoir, which was polluted with selenium released from a mountaintop mining operation. Between 50% and 60% of young fish were deformed because of high selenium concentrations.
Not Fit for Human Consumption
Selenium levels in fish caught in some of West Virginia’s rivers are more than twice what is considered safe for human consumption.
Humans need to absorb certain amounts of selenium daily, but extremely high concentrations can cause reproductive failure and birth defects.
“I specialize in fish, but that is only one part of the overall picture,” Dr. Lemly says. “Public health is also an issue with mountaintop removal mining.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Coal Country: Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining
Photo: nrdc_media | Creative Commons
Read More:Mountaintop Mining Poisons Fish Supply