Mercury Info

Letter on Mercury from the National Fisheries Institute – July 6, 2009

Over the last several years, the public has been hearing false messages about mercury levels in fish communicated through the mass media. These messages largely come from environmental groups pressing for stronger mercury emission standards and falsely claim women of childbearing age may have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, putting their unborn babies and young children are at risk for neurological impairment. At the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), we agree discussions about eating fish should be central to our national discourse on nutrition. However, the way this subject is being covered raises troubling issues about the objectivity, accuracy, balance and sourcing of this specialized nutrition issue…. (View full letter in HTML)

Mercury Content In Pacific Albacore Tuna

Health Benefits and Risks in Seafood Consumption:
Special Emphasis on Albacore Tuna

Click here for full report

MBA Seafood Watch Albacore Tuna Report
Click here for full report

MERCURY CONTENT IN PACIFIC ALBACORE TUNA (THUNNUS ALALUNGA) DURING 2003 SEASON
Click here for full report

MERCURY CONTENT IN PACIFIC ALBACORE TUNA (THUNNUS ALALUNGA) DURING 2006 SEASON
Click here for full report

Mercury Study in Troll/Pole caught Albacore (PDF)

What about the Mercury?

There has been a lot of talk about the unsafe mercury levels in “Tuna” recently, which has become a growing concern for many tuna lovers. In order to understand the facts behind these serious statements we must first understand that the “Tuna” with unsafe levels of mercury are by no means a lump sum. There are many different species within the genus of Tuna. The specific species that contain these unsafe amounts of mercury are found in older Yellow Fin, Blue Fin and Albacore.

All the aforementioned species can reach a long life span of over 40 years. As these fish get older they tend to migrate to warmer pacific waters and live. It is in these circumstances that they have seen higher mercury levels. These fish are very old and have had many years to accumulate mercury into their bodies. However our albacore is ‘hook & line’ caught off the Pacific Northwest Coastline. When albacore are younger they stay in the colder Pacific waters.

All the albacore that we catch and process from the colder Pacific waters are specifically between the ages of 2-5 years old. Using the ‘hook & line’ methods allows us to monitor and inspect each catch. Mercury levels in such fish are at minimal trace levels, some non-detectable. The albacore we catch from the northwest has a very high oil content.

What is the press saying:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ The U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) today said that the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help to underscore the important health benefits of canned tuna and other fatty fish for people of all ages.

Responding to the new recommendation that consumers eat two eight-ounce servings a week of foods rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), USTF said that canned tuna is an excellent source of these two essential fatty acids. In fact, of the top 10 most commonly consumed fish in this country, salmon and canned albacore tuna have the highest levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutritional Database. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential because the body does not make them and must get these fatty acids from food sources.

In making this recommendation, the 13-member 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee whose scientific review formed the basis for updating the government’s nutrition advice concluded that higher levels of EPA and DHA are associated with the reduced risk of both sudden death and death from coronary heart disease in adults.

Specifically the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee estimates a 30 percent reduction in the risk of coronary deaths with the increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Further, the panel recommended fish over supplements as a source of omega-3 fatty acids because epidemiological studies and other data demonstrate that fish also is high in other nutrients and is low in saturated fat and calories.

Besides being cardio-protective, USTF pointed to a growing body of research that links omega-3 fatty acids with optimal brain function and cognition, improved eye and skin health, protection against certain cancers, and a therapeutic effect on depression and specific autoimmune diseases including lupus, psoriasis and arthritis.

At the same time, the omega-3 fatty acids in canned tuna are essential for the developing brain during pregnancy and the first two years of a baby’s life. According to numerous studies, DHA comprises approximately 40 percent of the polyunsaturated fatty acid content in the cell membranes in the brain and is transferred from mother to the fetus at a high rate during the last trimester of pregnancy. Along with DHA, the developing fetus uses EPA for the growth of the brain and the developing nervous system.

Besides being a rich source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, the U.S. Tuna Foundation said that eating more canned tuna will also help Americans meet the recommendations of the new Dietary Guidelines to lower the amount of saturated fat they consume and to achieve a healthy weight. This is because canned tuna is low in fat, rich in certain vitamins and minerals and is so high in protein that one six-ounce can yields one-third of the recommended daily amount. Moreover, canned tuna is very low in calories compared to other protein sources. There are 116 calories in a 100-gram serving of water-packed canned tuna compared with 208 calories in the same serving of turkey. More information about canned tuna and its health benefits is available at the USTF Web site:

www.tunafacts.com

Established in 1976, the U.S. Tuna Foundation (USTF) is the national organization representing the canned tuna processors and the fishermen who supply them and addresses issues ranging from fishing access arrangements to federal and state regulations and domestic marketing.

Source: U.S. Tuna Foundation