While toxins within fish have steadily declined since the 80s, the planet's fish population is down by half.
A new global analysis of seafood has found that fish populations sampled all over the world are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, or POPs. The study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego was based on the analysis of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles from 1969-2012. The pollution studied included chemicals such as DDT, mercury, flame retardants and coolants.
According to biologist Stuart Sandin:
“Based on the data collected from across the globe, we can say that POPs can be anywhere and in any species of marine fish”.
On the plus side, the number of toxins in fish has actually been decreasing since the 1980s, dropping 15-30% per decade.
Another biologist and co-author of the study, Lindsay Bonito, stated that “the typical fish that you consume today can have approximately 50% of the concentration of most POPs when compared to the same fish eaten by your parents at your age”.
The authors state that while the pollutant concentrations are slowly declining, they still remain quite high. They believe that understanding the cumulative effects of exposure to contamination in seafood is necessary to “determine the specific risk to consumers”.
POLLUTION IS DAMAGING THE FISH POPULATION
While the study found a decline in toxins within the fish we eat, the population of fish in our oceans are down by half due to pollution.
Along with massive overfishing and damage to coral reefs, 250,000 metric tons of plastic in the world’s oceans kills off smaller fish, interrupting the food chain and in turn, starving off the larger fish. Many fish and mammals become tangled or trapped, resulting in suffocation.
A WWF report reveals that marine vertebrates have declined 49% between 1970 and 2012, some fish species declining by almost 75%. They state that with over “25% of all marine species living in coral reefs and about 850 million people directly benefiting from their economic, social and cultural services, the loss of coral reefs would be a catastrophic extinction with dramatic consequences on communities.”
BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE FISH YOU EAT
Levels of mercury, at any level, can be dangerous to people considered “at risk”, such as young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers or even women of childbearing age. The FDA and EPA advise these groups of women and children not to eat more than two or three meals, or 12 ounces total, of fish or shellfish each week.
According to Organic Consumers Association, and based on FDA and state health regulations, there are certain fish that test higher for mercury and POPs that you should avoid either altogether or in small doses.
While we may not be able to stop pollution all at once, we can start taking steps towards healthier bodies and a safer tomorrow by practicing mindful consumerism.
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