The National Fisheries Institute released a statement in response to a report that mercury levels in Pacific yellowfin tuna are on the rise. The trade association called the report "irresponsible and sloppy," explaining key points to clarify the issue.
The report cites findings from a study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry that says mercury levels in yellowfin tuna from the Pacific Ocean have risen 3.8 percent every year since 1998. According to Paul Drevnick, an eco-toxicologist from the University of Michigan and lead author for the study, rising mercury levels in the fish are caused by mercury emissions being absorbed by the ocean.
While yellowfin tuna aren't at the top of the food chain, the results of the study are still concerning, said Carl Lamborg, a co-author for the study, because it indicates mercury levels are increasing. The methyl mercury levels are not a current hazard and probably don't outweigh the health benefits of a fish-enriched diet, according to the researchers.
The NFI countered by stating that not one of the levels measured for methyl mercury in species of tuna included in the study posed a health risk to consumers. Saying that tuna mercury levels could reach potentially hazardous levels is simply scaring consumers for no reason, the NFI said.
"More than a decade's worth of published, peer-reviewed science clearly demonstrates eating fish leads to concrete health benefits. To suggest this study in any way undermines the current science and these proven facts, or should be taken into account when consuming fish, is disingenuous and misleading," added the NFI in its statement.
The trade association also points out that as the study is not about nutrition or human health and doesn't illustrate direct harm from consuming tuna, or any other kind of seafood, it shouldn't be used as a resource for nutrition advice.
The NFI also reiterated that the minute increases in mercury levels noted by study are still way below levels officially considered to be harmful.
Mercury levels have risen in the atmosphere due to growing industries and it happened to coincide with an increase in mercury found in some ocean basins. However, tying the two together is difficult thanks to complex biological and chemical processes that cause mercury to change form.
Yellowfin tuna is used in a variety of dishes requiring raw fish, most especially sashimi, and is a popular alternative when southern bluefin tuna is not available. Fast and strong, the fish is also a favorite in sport fishing, particularly with anglers.