National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and


It's been about a decade since the big news in seafood consumption was alarmingly high levels of methylmercury in tuna — leading to warnings that children and pregnant women should limit their consumption or eliminate the fish from their diets altogether.

Those warnings have slowly softened over the years, and always in the background were some grumblings about the accuracy of the assessment and whether selenium might counteract the effects of mercury in ocean fish.

Now a study from the University of North Dakota shows that selenium does indeed affect the absorption of methylmercury and, therefore, must be gauged when recommending consumption restrictions.

Also a poll taken at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant shows a majority of scientists saying methylmercury contamination in seafood is not a serious health threat.

So what does this mean for consumers of seafood? Well, I can say anecdotally that the damage has been done. It could take decades for tuna's reputation to recover.

That's how it goes in our media frenzy of 24-hour news coverage. The big, breaking story gets coverage to the point of saturation. The corrections to that story, not so much — especially when they come years later.

That's why the beef people sued Oprah. One bad headline can seriously damage your industry for years (they might thank Dr. Atkins and his diet for early release).

But if tuna should get some sort of relief, it would have to be tempered by the fact that Eastern Atlantic bluefin stocks are in peril. My only advice, as it so often is these days, is to buy American.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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