Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Fishermen say that report on mercury harms the industry

CNA , HUALIEN

Fishermen in Hualien County are angry about a report issued by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) last weekend that advised people to eat less deep-sea fish to avoid too much mercury accumulating in their bodies.

Wang Min-chang (王銘章), secretary-general of the Hualien Fishermen's Association, said yesterday that the report had caused fish prices to plummet and that the hardest-hit were large deep-sea fish, such as marlin.

He said that the report had caused the fish market to stagnate, resulting in huge losses to fishermen who rely on selling their catches for a living, because even at such low prices, consumers were reluctant to buy.

Wang urged the administration to provide precise figures and other details about the mercury levels in large deep-sea fish, or the fishermen in Hualien County will not rule out a protest demonstration against the administration.

In Taipei, an EPA spokesman told news media that officials had tried to communicate with fishermen's representatives after learning of the situation, and had obtained their understanding.

The spokesman said that the report was not targeted at deep-sea fish, but was mainly intended to call people's attention to the problem of mercury pollution.

The EPA report -- issued last Sunday after a one-year study based on 1,066 samples -- showed that Taiwanese had an average mercury level of 2.4 milligrams per kilogram in their hair, slightly higher than people in Japan and the US.

According to the report, Hualien County leads the 22 counties and cities of Taiwan with the average mercury content in the hair of its residents measured at 3.09 milligrams per kilogram.

It also said that the average mercury level in the hair of people who habitually eat large deep-sea fish was six times that of those who do not eat such fish.

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