Earlier this week, we told you about the public advisory that the Ministry of Health issued on the mercury levels of fish in the Macal River. 12 types of fishes were caught from the Macal River of which 50% had levels of mercury above the recommended level. Of that 50%, only three (3) of those fishes are normally eaten by Belizeans. Those are the Bay Snook, Baca and Botasi. In the case of Bay Snook, the new results indicate that there has been a significant increase in mercury levels to almost three times its pervious reading. John Bowden, health inspector for the Ministry of Health tells us more.
John Bowden, Health Insp. MOH: And what we’re seeing in that fish is that it has 3x the level of mercury, and the Ministry of Health has done its necessary calculations to determine what quantity of fish you can eat within a given week. In Fact what we have notices is that
the amount that we would be recommending would be a very very small amount. That one, the Bay Snook itself would be less than half an ounce and we know that we couldn’t hold people to those quantities, so it’s best for us to say because the quantities would be so low, then it’s best that nobody eats the fish from the Macal River. That is what we’re saying right now in regards to the Bay Snook, people should not be eating Bay Snook from the Macal river.
Bowden also told us what we can eat as a replacement for the Bay Snook.
John Bowden, Health Insp. MOH: One of the replacement that we’re looking at is essential fat, the amino fatty acid 3 which you get a lot from fish. That’s not the only source because you know there are some people who never fish but they’re still getting that fatty acids within another food. Some of them are like the avocado pear, we’ve just been through that season and we still see quite a lot on the market. You have from seeds, pepitos, we have in conch from which pepitos come from. We have flat seeds, we have the cashew nuts which actually produces that. We have spinach. But most importantly because they live in the rural areas, these things are available to them and one of the protein substitute because we need to look at what be the protein substitute and the chicken that runs, the free ranging chicken, as we call them, the chicken that walks around in the yard is one of the protein replacement for that.
Consumption of high mercury levels can lead to mental retardation in children, poor development of infants, vision impairment, nervousness, and weakening of muscles in the hand and feet. Since 2007, the Ministry of Health has been observing the fish in the Macal River for levels of mercury.