The Beacon

Oceana Uncovers Dangerous Mercury Levels in Fish

© Oceana/Juan Cuetos

Spain’s biggest newspaper, El País, featured Oceana prominently in this morning’s cover story. The article describes Oceana’s unrelenting effort to make previously confidential research regarding unsafe mercury levels in large fish freely accessible to the public, highlighting an important victory with implications for the health of the Spanish populace and the transparency of the Spanish government.

Here’s the back story: in 2003, Spain’s Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) conducted a large research study that documented levels of mercury and other heavy metals in large fish such as various sharks, swordfish, and bluefin tuna.

The results of the study were not good: 62.5 percent of the 128 mako shark samples and 54.2 percent of the swordfish samples contained high, unpermitted levels of mercury. Despite this alarming evidence, the results were never released due to concerns about its possible impact on the fishing industry.

Although Spain’s Ministry of Environment had no qualms hiding the worrisome results from the public, thereby endangering the health of the Spanish populace, Oceana immediately took action. After more than three years of pressure from Oceana, Spain’s National Court finally relented and released the full document to NGOs and the public alike.

In light of the data included in the study, women of child-bearing age and children can now avoid certain types of fish that could lead to mercury poisoning and neurological defects. In the United States, many supermarkets have agreed to post warnings about mercury levels, and Oceana is hopeful that Spanish supermarkets will follow suit.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from mercury poisoning.


Browse by Date