“I can’t do it anymore.”
That’s what oceanographer and former chief scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sylvia Earle said this week when an ABC Nightline reporter asked her if she eats fish. The piece focused on her year stint at an underwater base called Aquarius, where she studied coral reefs in Key Largo. And although she grew up in a seafood-loving family and she herself has eaten “more than my share” now she says she “…can’t do it anymore” because she’s concerned about “all the pesticides and mercury floating out here.”
That’s too bad for Sylvia. You’d think that a former prize-winning chief scientist would know better.
Seafood is the premiere food source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. High in nutrients and protein and low in saturated fat, fish provides DHA, which helps to reduce risk of heart disease and is vital for developing baby brains and eyes. Research shows that low seafood consumption is the second biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the US, taking 84,000 lives each year. Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements haven’t been proven to provide the same benefits.
All commercially-caught fish are safe for Americans to eat. While mercury occurs naturally in trace amounts in ocean fish, most fish, including the top 10 most consumed in America, have levels well below the FDA’s limit of 1 parts per million (ppm). Pesticides (I suppose she is referring to PCBs) also accumulate in fish, but we consume more PCBs from dairy, beef, fruits and vegetables than from fish. Health organizations—such as Institute of Medicine (IOM), Food Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), American Heart Association and the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics—across the world recognize that the nutritional benefits of seafood far outweigh any minimal risk of contaminants in fish. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that all adults (especially pregnant women) eat seafood for at least two meals each week.