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Pesticide fishing spreads in Mexico.

In some places, fish kills as a result of pesticide use are an unfortunate environmental accident. But in Mexico, fish are being killed intentionally by fishers using pesticides. A new report released by the Mexican Environmental Enforcement Agency (PROFEPA) documents illegal use of pesticides for fishing in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan.

The report, the result of a four-month investigation, reveals that at least two insecticides are being used in fishing for langostino, a crustacean delicacy served primarily in expensive restaurants.

The chemicals being used for fishing in the region are the veterinary insecticides Batestan plus (deltamethrin) and Asuntol (coumaphos).

Deltamethrin, a pyrethroid, bioaccumulates and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. It is considered moderately toxic to humans. It is known to be highly toxic to aquatic species, including fish, amphibeans, aquatic insects and zooplankton.

Coumaphos is an organophosphate rated highly toxic to humans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and classified as an extremely hazardous substance by the World Health Organization. It is a cholinesterase inhibitor.

PROFEPA condemned the practice of pesticide fishing but did not address the question of whether fish caught through this method posed a health risk to consumers. The agency did not investigate whether langostinos collected by pesticide fishing have been served in tourist areas like nearby Puerto Vallarta.

Additional evidence suggests that the practice of pesticide fishing may be widespread in Mexico. In late March of this year, two men were arrested in separate incidents in Michoacan for use of Batestan plus in fishing, and more than 340 langostinos were confiscated. Anecdotal reports indicate use of unidentified pesticides in at least two communities near the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in the state of Chiapas. According to a government biologist working on the Pacific side of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, people are fishing with pesticides to catch a shrimp-like crustacean locally known as piguas.

In addition, in mid-2000, a Mexican environmental law nongovernmental organization, the Centro de Derecho Ambiental e Integracion Economica del Sur (DASSUR), documented pesticide fishing in the Uxpanapa River, at the heart of biodiversity-rich Uxpanapa Valley in southern Veracruz near the Gulf of Mexico.

In this case, health effects from consumption of contaminated fish were documented. Fishers were using Butox which, like Batestan plus, has deltamethrin as an active ingredient. Acute illnesses of both adults and children linked to consumption of contaminated fish and shrimp were documented in various townships near Ejido Palancares, where the pesticide fishing takes place. Researchers frequently heard unconfirmed rumors of frequent abortions and developmental effects in children in the region.

The project's next stage will involve further documentation of health effects, as well as education about the risks of pesticide fishing in other affected communities in Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas. The project will also work to enhance the capacity of affected communities to recognize and report pesticide fishing to the proper authorities and to use local press to raise awareness about the issue. - NL -

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Publication:Natural Life
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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