Healthy Seafood? Think Again
In my April 28th post, Let’s get Real on Sustainable Seafood, I discussed the need to stop eating seafood because of environmental degradation and heavily depleted worldwide fish stocks. But for many people, it’s out of sight out of mind and if it’s in the grocery store they’ll buy it; oftentimes using health benefits as an excuse. So, what about the health benefits of seafood? I believe we evolved out of the sea (my mother says I got stuck in the gill stage of my development!), so it’s natural that seafood would be a healthy way for us to eat (the Oceans is the world’s largest source of protein) .
But the ocean is no longer a healthy place. Let’s take a look at just a couple of things that are in the seafood that we eat in our 21st century world.
This one has been an issue for decades and continues to accumulate in fish and therefore in us. Here are a few quotes from Science Daily, an online news service agency with over 2,000 contributing organizations worldwide.
April 20, 2008
“Mercury is one of the world’s most troublesome pollutants, especially in water. The South River, a major tributary of Virginia’s Shenandoah River, has been under a fish consumption advisory for years, as are some 3,000 other bodies of water in the U.S.”
March 4, 2010
“Mercury is a naturally occurring element, but some 2,000 tons of it enter the global environment each year from human-generated sources such as coal-burning power plants, incinerators and chlorine-producing plants. Deposited onto land or into water, mercury is picked up by microorganisms, which convert some of it to methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish and the animals — and the people that eat them.”
And from www.mercola.com
A recent U.S. Geological Survey study, mercury contamination was detected in EVERY fish sampled in nearly 300 streams across the United States!
More than a quarter of these fish contained mercury at levels exceeding the EPA criterion for the protection of human health – a level that may still be too high to truly protect your health in the long run.
In addition, a previous study on fish from US lakes and reservoirs found that more than half contained excessive levels of mercury — so much so they were deemed unsafe for children and pregnant women to eat.
Latest guidelines show that adults should eat canned tuna no more than three times per month due to elevated mercury levels and one serving of sushi grade tuna often exceeds the limit.
The problem with much of the imported seafood is the presence of antibiotics, fungicides, and other chemicals that have been banned in the U.S. In an ideal world, the FDA would reject any and all contaminated wares, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of our imported seafood.
As reported by www.EconomyInCrisis.org , Alabama, which has some of the most stringent seafood safety testing, regularly rejects between 50 and 60 percent of imported seafood!
Dr. Mercola also has this to say about farmed seafood-
Farmed fish, in particular, should be avoided if you treasure your health. (It’s also one of the most unsustainable approaches to farming there is, and typically has a significant, detrimental impact on the environment.)
All farm-raised fish are fed a concoction of vitamins, antibiotics, and depending on the fish, synthetic pigments, to make up for the lack of natural flesh coloration due to the altered diet. Without it, the flesh of farm raised salmon, for example, would be an unappetizing, pale gray.
Pesticides are oftentimes also fed to the fish, and toxic copper sulfate is frequently used to keep nets free of algae.
Fish waste and uneaten feed litter the sea floor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures; in essence creating a localized death zone.
The inevitable result of these modern fish farming practices is an evil circle of disease, antibiotic use, followed by the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains. Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, often run rampant in densely packed fish farms.
Studies have also consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene and dieldrin, as well as mercury, to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish.
Check out http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/04 for more on shrimp farming and the amount of chemicals used.
Finally, what about pollution…and I mean just plain trash. More and more human trash is being found in fish and marine mammals. Take a look at what was found just two weeks ago in a dead gray whale in Puget Sound which included duct tape, 20 plastic bags, a pair of sweat pants and a golf ball. The problem with plastic is while it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, it really never goes away. These smaller pieces are consumed by plankton eating organism’s – everything from zooplankton to whales – and moves its way right up the food chain. In some cases, like this whale, the accumulation of indigestible matter in its digestive system leads to death. In other cases, it comes right up the food chain to us.
What you can do ?
From the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch: Seafood contaminants include metals (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals at the base of the ocean food web. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated. Large predatory fish—like tuna, swordfish and shark—end up with the most toxins. You can minimize risks by choosing seafood carefully. Use our Super Green list and learn more about contaminants in seafood on the EDF website.
Download a National, your Regional and/or a Sushi Pocket Guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program or get the app for your iPhone. These guides give you the simple information to make a good choice – not just for sustainable seafood but also for seafood that isn’t laced with the contaminants of our 21st century life.
Or better yet…refer back to my April 28th and stop eating seafood altogether.
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