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Mercury in Fish from the Macal River and Other Rivers

Posted By: Marty

Mercury in Fish from the Macal River and Other Rivers - 11/28/17 06:53 PM

The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), has completed another assessment of mercury levels in fishes from the Macal River, Mopan, Belize and New River. The following Advisory is being issued to guide the public on the amount of fish that can be eaten safely to avoid ill effects due to mercury exposure.

Macal River Fish

Analysis from this mercury testing indicated that only two fishes (Botasis and Shortfin Molly) had levels of mercury above the recommended safety level. All other captured fishes tested were below the mercury safety level for consumption however they must be consumed with some caution especially Bay snook which was found to be slightly under the safety level. The public is therefore advised not to eat more than six ounces for both Botasis and Bay snook weekly. For Shortfin Molly, no recommendation is given since it is a small aquarium fish not eaten by the public.

Fish Monitoring in Other Rivers

In this monitoring, fish tested from other rivers came from the Mopan River near Benque, Calla Creek and Santa Familia, Belize River near Iguana Creek, Roaring Creek, Big Falls and Burrell Boom and the New River in the Orange Walk District. These fish were tested to identify existing mercury levels in the absence of a dam. The following were the results:

• Of the 13 species of fish tested, five species (Bay snook, Baca, Tilapia, Shad and Yellow Sea Catfish) had very high mercury levels above what is safe for consumption.

• In the case of Bay snook, Baca and Tilapia, mercury levels were almost twice as recommended for safe consumption.

• The following quantities of fish are recommended for consumption:

* Baca from the Mopan River in the area of Benque Viejo is not to be consumed.

Only a maximum of 5 ounces of Shad is to be consumed from the Mopan River weekly.

Only 1.6 ounces of either Tilapia, Yellow Sea Catfish and Bay snook is recommended for consumption weekly from the Mopan and Belize Rivers.

When comparing the mercury sample results of the Macal River with the other three rivers, the Mopan River and upper Belize River has higher mercury levels than the Macal River. While in the lower Belize River (Burrell Boom) and the New River mercury safety levels were slightly above the maximum fish mercury level safe for consumption.

The public is asked to obey the recommended amounts of fish to be eaten in any one-week period to prevent negative health impacts such as: mental retardation in children, poor development of infants, damage to vision, weakening of muscles in the hands and feet.

It is also recommended that the following can be eaten to serve as a replacement option for the omega fatty acid that may be lost from the diet by not eating fish:

1. Eating fish from other locations in the country.

2. Eat replacement foods like: local chicken, pumpkin seeds (Pepitos), sesame (Wangla seed), cashew nuts, avocados, spinach.

3. Use of oils from flaxseed, canola, corn, olive or soybean or

4. Take Omega Acid Supplements.

The Ministry of Health assures the public that it remains watchful on this issue and will continue to issue the necessary advisories as required.

Let’s remain safe and healthy and follow the recommended weekly consumption quantities of fish from the Macal, Mopan, Belize and New Rivers.
Posted By: Marty

Re: Mercury in Fish from the Macal River and Other Rivers - 11/29/17 11:43 AM

Frightening Mercury Levels in River Fish

Tonight, the Ministry of Health, the Department of Environment and BECOL is giving another update on the levels of mercury in fish of the Macal, Mopan, Belize and New Rivers.

In the Macal, only two types of fish: Botasis and Shortfin Molly had levels of mercury above the recommended safety level. All other fishes tested were below the mercury safety level. but that doesn't mean it's all clear. The advisory says they must be consumed in moderations especially Bay snook which was found to be slightly under the safety level. So, you're advised not to eat more than six ounces of both Botasis and Bay snook weekly. The Shortfin Molly is not a factor since it is a small aquarium fish not eaten by the public.

Now, while that is the Macal, there are worrying results for other rivers.

13 species of fish were tested in the Mopan River near Benque, Calla Creek and Santa Familia, Belize River near Iguana Creek, Roaring Creek, Big Falls and Burrell Boom and the New River in the Orange Walk District.

Five of the 13 species, namely the Bay snook, Baca, Tilapia, Shad and Yellow Sea Catfish had, quote, "very high mercury levels above what is safe for consumption." In the case of Bay snook, Baca and Tilapia, mercury levels were almost twice as recommended for safe consumption.

So, first off, Baca from the Mopan River in the area of Benque Viejo is not to be consumed. As for Shad, only Only a maximum of 5 ounces from the Mopan river is to be consumed weekly.

While, only 1.6 ounces of either Tilapia, Yellow Sea Catfish and Bay snook is recommended for consumption weekly from the Mopan and Belize Rivers.

Notably, the Mopan River and upper Belize River have higher mercury levels than the Macal River. In the lower Belize River near Burrell Boom and the New River, mercury safety levels were slightly above the maximum fish mercury level safe for consumption.

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