You might change the lyrics to Three 6 Mafia’s tune from “Hustle and Flow” and make a street-y statement about the fishing industry of late. I’m not going to do that, but if you think a rap parody about fish will bring hits to your website…go for it. In close proximity, several warnings about high levels of mercury in tuna have jumped into the faces of sushi eaters and weight watchers over the last few weeks. One study, conducted by an anti-mercury group, involved sushi from six Los Angeles restaurants. A Southern California lab tested the tuna samples and found the average mercury level was 0.721 parts per million, about 88 percent higher than the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended level for fresh and frozen tuna.Meanwhile in Louisiana, sampled mercury levels in fish led state agencies to announce Wednesday that people should limit consumption of fish taken out of certain Louisiana water bodies, including the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement from the state Department of Health and Hospitals, Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries brought the list of fish advisory water bodies in the state of Louisiana to 41.Then last Friday a federal panel announced that they would advise the National Marine Fisheries Service to take a serious look at closing the six-month fishing season around coastal Northern California due to “dramatically” dwindling stocks of Chinook salmon on the Klamath River, which empties into the Pacific north of Eureka. Mercury in tuna, dwindling supplies of salmon. Dirty chicken, anybody?I can’t prove it with statistics, but I seem to remember America eating more fish soon after a CBS “60 Minutes” story in the late 80’s took us inside some less than sparkling chicken processing plants. It was a classic case of people not wanting to know where their food comes from. Beef started to become synonymous with diets that brought on strokes and heart attacks and right about then sushi started to take hold. At first, it was mostly about trend and style; sushi was so not your dad’s dinner. And the little places that served sushi were fun. The artists who created sushi temptations were gregarious but they didn’t throw knives around like those grinning maniacs at Benihana. And a plate of sushi was so…tranquil. Like a little meditation garden you could eat and wash down with sake.While memories of fun dining can be long-lasting, mercury can be forever. It can permanently damage the nervous system in fetuses and may cause temporary memory loss in adults. Mercury can accumulate in fish to concentrations several thousand times greater than mercury levels in the surrounding water. Still, even before the current rash of Mercury-mania, studies published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine were warning the public not to curtail their consumption of fish and lose the heart disease fighting and fetal development benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Which means that, right now anyhow, it’s kind of up to you about eating tuna.Back in the 70’s, when it was cool to care about the environment, we were often frightened by predictions of what was coming if we didn’t “save the planet”: dwindling species, polluted rivers and lakes and oceans, toxins in our foods. Now that it’s all come to pass, it doesn’t feel like apocalypse so much as it does surrender. We wrestle over the levels of mercury in our fish, forgetting that there was never supposed to be mercury in our fish in the first place.
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