06 March 2008

guest blog: fish: eating safe, eating good

This guest blog is one of a 5-part series about the benefits of dangers of eating fish, and how to consume it responsibly. Janet Watkins is a freelance writer living and blogging from the Midwest at www.insidewords.blogspot.com.
Please contact me if you are interested in writing a topical guest blog.

I love eating fish. It is on my menu at least twice a week. Salmon and tilapia are particular favorites. I enjoy catfish, too, even though I should avoid eating it according to the Eat Right For Your Type diet (which I follow, generally). But the mercury warnings and concerns about sustainability are enough to make a person holler and forego marine edibles altogether.

As a child, I spent many weekends with my family along the banks of the Detroit River or at some other nearby lake where we would drop lines baited with hopes of snagging the fresh catch of the day. Fish was a mainstay. Mercury and PCB levels were not the concern it is today. Greenpeace red lists did not exist. The destructive practices of fisheries that have put many species at high risk were not widely acknowledged nor publicly known back in the day. And, while intuitively my mother knew eating fish was good food for us, there was no research hailing its health benefits like the Harvard Public Health study, which states eating modest amounts of fish each week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 36% and overall mortality by 17%.

Doctors and health experts all agree that the benefits that come from eating fish outweigh the risks. But given the ongoing health warnings and environmental concerns, what’s a fish lover to do?

Remember the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? His madness was likely due to the mercury leeching from that top hat he wore. Before its use was banned in the 1940s, mercury was used in the curing of some felt hats. Scientific evidence shows that many of the hat makers suffered severe neurological effects from inhaling the fumes during the hat making process. Psychotic symptoms and hallucinations were experienced by many of the workers as mercury poisoning progressed. So what does this have to do with eating fish? You don’t have to be in the hat making business to be worried about mercury – it has invaded our waters. And, therefore also shows up in the fish we eat.

Understanding the threats to the marine environment can help us make informed decisions about eating fish. Learning about the pollution issues of our water can help us steer clear of contaminated fish.

Coming up: Habitat and Sustainability

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