Got mercury? Not much, in locally caught seafood, sampling shows

Great news on the mercury content for our local fish. I recently participated in a research project conducted by Got Mercury?, a California-based environmental group that seeks to protect the public from mercury in seafood, the environment and other areas of concern.

We submitted samples of mahi-mahi, swordfish and yellowfin tuna purchased from eight randomly selected Publix, Sam’s Club and Whole Foods stores throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties. Also in the mix were six 2-ounce samples cut from kingfish, swordfish, blackfin tuna and mahi-mahi that I personally caught off Boynton Beach from November to January.

Most of the samples of the store-bought fish came from faraway locales like Costa Rica and Trinidad. I’m happy to report that the results of all 30 of the lab-tested samples showed that the locally caught fish had the lowest mercury content of all the submissions and were well below the 1 part per million safety standard set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for commercial seafood consumption.

Now, these locally caught fish were not of record-setting size. For example, the swordfish were in the 80- to 100-pound range – typical for that species of fish caught off South Florida shores, but smaller than the 200- and 300-pound monsters often caught off the Grand Banks (and if you’ve watched the Discovery Channel’s reality show, “Swords,” you know what I mean). But the levels of the locally caught fish still come as some relief because swordfish and tuna are known for often having high levels of mercury. That’s because, being large species, they are at the end of the food chain.

One of the Whole Foods swordfish samples – marked simply as coming from “the USA” – had a mercury level of 3.59 ppm. Another, of unknown origins purchased at a West Boynton Publix, had a mercury content of 2.66 ppm. By contrast, the locally caught swordfish had mercury levels of .77 and .80 ppm.

Being a professional angler, commercial fisherman and a seafood lover, this is great news. I eat fresh fish whenever we catch it, so it is nice to know that these results confirm the safety of our locally caught fish, as far as mercury levels go.

For the record, though, I did eat the leftover fish purchased from the other markets, but I’m not too worried about the levels reported. I don’t eat large amounts of seafood, or any food, with unsafe levels of mercury to raise much of a health concern.

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