Macal River fish uneatable
Belizeans should not eat bay-snook fish from the Macal River, because mercury levels in the fish are too high, the Ministry of Health warned on Monday, October 4, 2010.
The health ministry based its findings on the results of analysis done in collaboration with the Department of the Environment and Belize Electric Company (BECOL) in June of this year.
Expectant and nursing mothers are especially warned against eating the fish because high mercury levels can slow the neurological development of fetuses, infants and children.
The tests showed that the mercury level in the bay-snook was 1.34mg/kg or three times the recommended limits for consumption, which can lead to several serious health complications.
The Ministry prudently advises the public on proper consumption levels, in adherence with the Chalillo Dam Environmental Compliance Plan, a judgement that was enacted by the Supreme Court,
While the Ministry doesn’t utterly ban eating the fish from the Macal, the safe limits they prescribe are so minuscule as to say people should avoid eating the bay-snook altogether. The safe portions which may be consumed are based on a person’s body weight, but even a 200lb man should not consume more than 1.28 ounces (two mouthfuls) per week. If you insist on eating a quarter-pound portion, you should not do this more than once per month.
For children weighing 25lbs, the safe limit is 4.5 grams or one fifth of an ounce per week.For a 100lb adolescent, the limit is 18.1 grams or 3/5ths of an ounce per week.
An adult weighing 175lbs is limited to 31.8 grams or 1.12 ounces of bay snook per week.
The ministry recommends eating fish from other sources to obtain the daily requirement of omega acids that could have been found in the fish. Where such alternatives are not available, the Ministry has also listed substitute sources of omega acids, such as local chicken, cashew nuts, avocados, spinach flaxseed, pumpkin seeds (pepitos), sesame (locally known as Wangla seed), and sunflower seeds. The preferred oils come from the extracts of flaxseed, canola, corn, olive and soybean.
This year’s assessment actually shows a decrease as compared to methyl mercury levels in the fish last year, but it is still at a hazardous level. Methyl mercury can be found naturally in many organic life forms.