Mercury in Fish from the Macal River and Other Rivers

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Belmopan. September 17th, 2019. The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), has completed another assessment of mercury levels in fishes from the Macal, Mopan, Belize, Rio Grande, and New rivers. The following advisory is being issued to guide the public on the safe amounts of fish that can be eaten to avoid ill effects of potential mercury exposure.

Macal River Fish

Analysis from this year’s mercury testing indicated that only 3 of 18 fish species tested had mercury levels above the recommended dose of 0.5 mg/kg. These were Botasi and Cichlid from upstream Vaca Dam and Bay Snook from the Cristo Rey village area along the Macal River in the Cayo District.

The Botasi was found to contain almost twice the recommended level of mercury for fish consumption at 0.95 mg/kg. The Bay Snook had 0.83 mg/kg and the Cichlid 0.71mg/kg. All three fish species with elevated mercury were samples collected from the Macal River. Important to note is that all other fish from the other four rivers had acceptable levels.

The Ministry hereby notifies the public that weekly amounts of fish allowed to be eaten from the above-mentioned locations are as follows:

Bay snook from Cristo Rey Village area- 1.7 ounces

Botasi from Upstream Vaca Dam – 4.7 ounces

Cichlid from Upstream Vaca Dam- 2.8 ounces

It is also recommended that the following be eaten to serve as replacement options for the omega fatty acids that may be lost from the diet by not eating fish:

1. Eat fish from other locations in the country.

2. Eat replacement foods such as local chicken, pumpkin seeds (pepitos), sesame seeds (Wangla seed), cashew nuts, avocados, spinach.

3.Use of oils from flaxseed, canola, corn, olive or soybean.

The Ministry of Health assures the public that it remains watchful on this issue and will continue to issue the necessary advisories as required.

Let’s remain safe and healthy and follow the recommended weekly consumption quantities of fish from the Macal River.

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