Beel den Stormer Presents the Only Fishery Blog You Need

Fish, Fisheries and Queryomics

Exaggerated Reports of Mercury in Fish Punk CBS News

Blue fin tuna at market.

Bluefin tuna at market.

The Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) in Gorham, Maine has released the results of a study of global mercury hotspots. The BRI’s masthead states that it is all about “Innovative Wildlife Science.”  This is the understatement of the new year, says Beel.

Please, friends, let Beel present and comment on the BRI’s two “major” fish related findings (read them here for yourselves):

  1. The extent of mercury contamination is ubiquitous in marine and freshwater ecosystems around the world.
  2. Fish samples from around the world regularly demonstrate mercury concentrations exceeding human health advisory guidelines based on the USEPA reference dose: 84 percent of total samples were above the level at which one meal per month is recommended.

Beel admits this sounds ominous.  But the BRI totally punked CBS News and is trying to punk you as well.

So, what did the BRI do and report?  Working with the International Physical Activity and the Environment Network (IPEN), BRI sampled fish in 9 areas of the world.  Yes a whole 9- as in 5% of the countries in the world- that were known before hand to be mercury hotspots. So, this is ubiquitous?  Based on 7 marine samples, from around the world, and 2 freshwater samples from around the world, all of which were from areas known upfront to be a problem, the BRI concludes the problem is everywhere. Everywhere.  You buying it? (If so, Beel has some seaside property in the Australian Outback for sale.)


Nine mercury hotspots from which fish were collected (blue triangles).  Source:  Global Mercury Hotspots: New Evidence Reveals Mercury Contamination Regularly Exceeds Health Advisory Levels in Humans and Fish Worldwide, Biodiversity Research Institute and IPEN (2013).

The BRI and IPEN then collected fish from these hotspots and found- hold on- that these fish had high mercury concentrations.  Really!

Beel, you ask, isn’t this like discovering that pizza restaurants serve pizza? Beel has to admit that it is.

In it’s worldwide sampling, the BRI sampled 108 individual fish, representing 12 out of about 25,000 species in the world, for mercury content. This is not a large sample.


Mercury concentrations in 108 fish sampled by BRI.  Source:  Global Mercury Hotspots: New Evidence Reveals Mercury Contamination Regularly Exceeds Health advisory Levels in Humans and Fish Worldwild, Biodiversity Research Institute and IPEN (2013).

All in all, the BRI reports, 84% of fish (as in, all fish in the world) had unhealthy concentrations of mercury.  A “fact” reported by CBS.  Note, the BRI sampled tuna, scabbardfish, halibut, carp, bream, and catfish, all of which were known before hand to generally have high concentrations of mercury based on their long lives and predatory habits (tuna, scabbardfish, halibut) or from feeding on bottom-dwelling organisms (carp, bream, catfish).

So, BRI collected fish from known mercury hotspots. The species collected were known to concentrate mercury.  And they found what? Mercury!

Read the BRI’s report for yourself.  It misrepresents the magnitude of the problem.

Beel’s concern is this:  there is mercury contamination in some fish and the public should be knowledgeable about it, but if were you to take these results before a group of regulators or policy makers, you’d be dead in the water.  They recognize this kind of “science” for what it is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on January 15, 2013 by in Commentary and tagged , .
%d bloggers like this: