Industry and legislators try to dispel fish concerns

MERCURY TEST::People are reportedly wary of heavy metals in deep sea fish products, which has led to a sharp decline in fish stock prices recently

By Chen Yen-ting and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Nov 08, 2013 - Page 3

Legislators yesterday enjoyed raw fish and freshly cooked fish soup in front of journalists to mitigate the damage over reports of mercury and heavy-metal contamination in the nation’s deep-sea fish stocks.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正) joined Yilan County fishermen association delegates at a press conference in consuming the delicacies in an attempt to assuage mounting public concerns.

The legislators said many people are no longer buying seafood, which has led to a drastic decline in fish stock prices.

At an academic conference last week, a study by clinical toxicologist Wu Ming-ling (吳明玲) of Taipei Veterans General Hospital reported that people who frequently eat deep-sea fish over a long period had elevated mercury levels in their blood and hair, and cited six patients who displayed symptoms of mercury poisoning.

To convince the public, the delegates cut up a 50cm yellowfin tuna and prepared slices of raw tuna sashimi for the legislators to eat, as they also drank fish soup.

After Wu’s report was released, prices had fallen Chen said.

“The price of swordfish was NT$500 per one Taiwanese catty (600g), now it’s NT$250. The dorado dolphinfish price fell from NT$130 to NT$53. Tuna fell from NT$350 to NT$170. Prices have declined by at least half. So how can fishermen make a living?” Chen asked.

He said the researchers based their report of heavy-metal contamination in deep-sea fish on only a few cases and that they failed to specify the species of the fish.

“Would they shoulder responsibility for the economic losses of our fishermen?” he asked.

“I grew up in the fishing port of Wuchi [梧棲, in Greater Taichung], and my family depended on fishing for our livelihood. We had fish for every meal at home, and we are in good health,” Lin said.

He said a 2010 Japanese academic paper in an international fishery journal of a study involving 1,000 individuals did not find any symptoms of mercury poisoning, nor did eating fish cause any harmful health effects.

In response, the head of the hospital’s department of toxicology, Teng Chao-fang (鄧昭芳), said the study pertained to specific cases.

“As long as people have balanced meals and eat in moderation, it is alright to consume deep-sea fish,” Teng said.

Teng said he also likes to eat fish, but because each person’s physiology is different, he is unable to offer a daily recommended limit for the consumption of deep-sea fish.