Traces of mercury were detected in a few species of fish that come from the Macal, Mopan, Belize and the New Rivers. Therefore, the Ministry of Health along with the Department of Environment and the Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL) has issued a public advisory on the required amount of fish that can be consumed on a weekly basis to avoid the harmful effects brought about by being exposed to mercury.
As it relates to the assessment conducted to test the levels of mercury in fishes from the Macal River, it was determined that the Botasis and Shortfin Molly tested positive for mercury levels above the recommended safety level for consumption. While other fishes that were captured and tested were recorded below the mercury safety level, they are to be consumed with caution, particularly the Bay Snook which was recorded slightly under the safety level. The public is strongly advised to consume a minimum of 6 ounces for both Botasis and Bay Snook fish that come from the Macal River.
Fishes from the other rivers were tested to identify existing levels of mercury in the absence of a dam. The analysis concluded that of the thirteen species tested, five of them including the Bay Snook, Baca, Tilapia, Shad and Yellow Sea Catfish recorded high levels of mercury above the safety level. However, in relation to the Bay Snook, Baca and Tilapia… mercury levels were almost twice as recommended for safe consumption.
The Ministry is advising that individuals refrain from consuming the Baca fish from the Mopan River in the area of Benque Viejo, while only a maximum of 5 ounces of Shad be consumed weekly. On the other hand, only 1.6 ounces of Tilapia, Yellow Sea Catfish and Bay Snook is recommended for weekly consumption from both the Mopan and Belize Rivers.
After a comparison was made regarding the mercury results recorded among the four rivers, it indicated that the Mopan River and upper Belize River had higher levels of mercury than the Macal River. While in the lower Belize River near Burrell Boom and the New River here in Orange Walk, mercury levels were recorded slightly above the maximum safety level for consumption.
The Ministry is strongly advising the public to obey the recommended quantities of fish to be consumed within a span of one week and also advises individuals to eat fish that come from other parts of the country instead, to consume replacement foods such as chicken, pumpkin seeds, avocados to name a few, and to also take omega acid supplements.