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High mercury levels found in popular fish.

Recreational anglers may be getting more than they bargain for in the fish they hook, indicates a report released by Oceana, Washington, D.C., the international ocean conservation group. Oceana's report provides data on 190 fish from 30 commonly landed species and presents the results from its survey of fish preferences and consumption rates.

"Coastal residents have higher levels of mercury than people who live inland, and anglers and their families are also at higher risk of mercury exposure," warns Jacqueline Savitz, director of Oceana's Campaign to Stop Seafood Contamination.

In some species, high mercury levels were eye-opening. King mackerel, barracuda, cobia (ling), and bonito (little tunny) all had mercury levels exceeding one part per million (ppm), on average, the level at which the Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to remove a product from the market and at which Alabama and Mississippi post advisories for no consumption. Ten additional species averaged above 0.5 ppm, the level at which Florida and Louisiana issue consumption advisories. These include Spanish mackerel, blackfin tuna, amberjack, black drum, gag grouper, wahoo, bluefish, gafftopsail catfish, crevalle jack, and ladyfish. Florida has declared limited consumption advisories for all of these species.

Other key findings from the report include:

* The highest mercury levels in individual samples were from the two king mackerel (3.97 and 3.56 ppm), followed by cobia (3.24 ppm).

* Five of the fish species had the highest mercury levels for individual fish ever recorded for the Gulf of Mexico: cobia (3.24), amberjack (1.57), bonito (1.60), yellowfin tuna (0.60), and hardtail (0.83).

* The most frequently consumed fish--snappers, groupers, and yellowfin tuna--averaged in the low to mid range for mercury in this study.

* The lowest average mercury levels were observed in vermilion snapper, tripletail (blackfish), dolphin (mahi mahi), flounder, and gray triggerfish.

In the last two years, 45 of the 50 states issued mercury advisories for recreationally caught fish. However, many of the high-mercury fish found in this study are not covered by these advisories. A Federal report called the Gulf of Mexico an area of concern for mercury contamination in seafood.

For most people, fish is the number-one source of mercury exposure. It can cause serious health problems, especially in children. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that one in six pregnant women has enough mercury in her blood to pose risks, such as brain damage, to the developing fetus.
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Title Annotation:Contamination
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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