Sick on Sushi

Stop the presses. This sushi debate is getting out of control. I have had to revisit the YouTube of sea otters holding hands to remind myself that almost 10 million humans still have a soul--that it's not all about us and our mercury levels.

You probably know what happened. Marian Burros wrote an article about mercury in sushi tuna that got on the front page of the January 23rd New York Times. Blogs (including this one) peddled it. Later NYTimes articles espoused its findings, though said sushi-lovers would ignore them. The fishing industry cried factual errors (they wrote a letter to The New York Times citing five) and indeed, this correction is now appended to the original article:

A chart with the continuation of a front-page article on Wednesday about high mercury levels found in tuna sushi in New York stores and restaurants referred imprecisely to what the Environmental Protection Agency deems to be an acceptable level of mercury consumption over a period of several months by an adult of average weight. The agency uses the phrase "reference dose" to refer to the daily level of mercury consumption it considers acceptable for a long-term diet; it does not use the phrase "weekly reference dose." (To find the acceptable weekly level of consumption over the long term, the reference dose is multiplied by seven.)

Politcal scientists used the sushi to write wacky columns. A writer at Slate called the article a "scaremonger" but still rode in on its coattails. And today Marian Burros wrote another piece on how many restaurants across the nation have begun their own mercury testing. She ends the article with what seems to be a bone thrown to the sushi hungry dogs of America:

"If you eat the appropriate portion you should not consider it a problem."

But hold up. There is a problem. In all this conversation, there has been almost no mention of the current dismal status of tuna stocks, which is as good a reason to go light on tuna as any mercury content.

We know the tuna are in real trouble--worldwide, the bluefin population has plunged more than 90 percent in the last 30 years. Just before the November conference on setting tuna quotas happened last year, The New York Times ran an opinion piece about how:

Blame for the crisis is global. The European Commission has promoted ruinously excessive fishing quotas. The United States is a major source of sushi demand, and must do much more to protect the bluefin in one of its important spawning grounds, the Gulf of Mexico. And a huge slab of raw guilt should be placed on Japan, the world's most voracious fish consumer, whose appetite for the bluefin has done the most to make it disappear.

But the Turkey meeting actually increased the quota for bluefin tuna by 1,000 tonnes (for a total quota of nearly 30,000 t). Carl Safina agrees: this decision was: stupid, stupid.

And this just in: Seafood industry consultants predict that U.S. per capita seafood consumption will hit a record 16.8 pounds per person when 2007 numbers are officially released later this year. Doesn't seem like anyone is doing too much sacrificing--for mercury content or otherwise. But if I was a tuna, I would try to eat as much mercury as I could. Seems like that might be the only way to keep some tuna in the sea.

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The New York Times' Marian Burros has an article today on high mercury levels in tuna sushi: Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable…
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Plenty of fuss has been made in the past few weeks over a New York Times investigation into the health risks of eating sushi, with tuna, and more specifically, bluefin tuna, painted as the biggest villan. The problem is the level of mercury in the fish, and mercury is a nasty neurotoxin. The fuss…

But if I was a tuna, I would try to eat as much mercury as I could. Seems like that might be the only way to keep some tuna in the sea.

I saw a TV show about tuna wranglers who catch them small and then grow them in captivity. I wonder if that might be of help in protecting the wild population. Also, I am still thinking about your post on using bug meal instead of fish meal to grow fish. It would be great to see that take off to help bring population numbers go back up!
Dave Briggs :~)

I had sushi for since when I was age of 7, I never ever had any problem at all. It was tuna and about mercury thing !!!
In Japan, no death from eating sushi since year of 1822 for over 150 years ! Please do not get too sensetive about it, but you much find out where it was caming from and where it was cought first. See, we Japanese still have a longest human life avarage rate in the World. Because myabe we drink hot green tea after every meals we have in Japan.
That is the main reason, we do not have much of over weighted person in entire Japan, see.

But hold up. There is a problem. In all this conversation, there has been almost no mention of the current dismal status of tuna stocks, which is as good a reason to go light on tuna as any mercury content..

In short, it was 1992 and the prevailing feeling among THAT generation, 15 years before Ms. Martin, was that they were too over-whelmed to care much. Its time to accept that the youth experiences of the 1960's (a time when brains were under-stimulated and seeking knowledge rather than feeling bombarded by it) are long, long gone.

My experience is quite different from Milan's. I have found that elected officials have a very good sense of what motivates their voters. And if they don't they either expend more energy and money to figure it out or the get fired..

My experience is quite different from Milan's. I have found that elected officials have a very good sense of what motivates their voters. And if they don't they either expend more energy and money to figure it out or the get fired..