The Sierra Club

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s oldest environmental groups, claims its mission is to “educate… humanity” about “the natural and human environment.” But the organization has strayed far from its original purpose, resorting to desperate tactics to gain headlines for their phony causes. Recently they even broke one of their core tenants of working within the law when their activists unlawfully chained themselves to the White House fence, echoing the tactics of other, even more extreme groups. Its activists are now so intent on drumming up headlines that they’ll say and do anything to get attention, including manufacturing phony fears about seafood.

The Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign continues to spew misinformation about canned tuna, claiming pollution from coal-fired plants is contaminating seafood. A Sierra Club official claims “Mercury pollution from coal-fired plants affects us every day, from the can of tuna fish we eat to the air we breathe.” The campaign asks: “Is there coal in your tuna? purposefully conflating environmental pollution with naturally occurring mercury found in all commercial fish.” We’ve directly called on the Sierra Club to stop peddling these distortions, but its shameful, manipulative campaign continues.

The truth of the matter is there has never been a single case of mercury toxicity from commercial seafood documented in a peer-reviewed study. Coal-powered utilities contribute to pollution in inland waterways and freshwater fish, but tuna are saltwater fish that live in the world’s oceans.

There are many layers of regulations already in place to protect American consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration enforces an actionable limit of 1.0 parts per million of mercury in seafood, which itself has a built in safety margin of 1,000 percent—meaning that a person would have to consume 1,000 percent of the recommended limit to be in danger. A 130-pound woman of childbearing age could theoretically eat 24 cans of light tuna every week without exceeding these strict guidelines.

In fact, health and nutrition authorities — including the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and Harvard School of Medicine  — all agree that the major risk associated with eating seafood is not eating enough. A recent study, for example, showed children whose mothers eat no fish during pregnancy are more likely to have abnormally low IQs. Another study found that more than 80,000 people die prematurely each year because they don’t get enough of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. As one Harvard researcher concluded: “Seafood is likely the single most important food one can consume for good health.”

Sierra Club activists have spinned their tall tuna tales to the point they’ve managed to confuse even themselves. In their Mercury Survival Guide, they actually recommend eating canned tuna, directly countering their own advice to avoid the fish.

It’s time that the Sierra Club stopped polluting the public discourse with phony scares. It can start by communicating the facts about seafood — and truly “educating humanity about the natural and human environment.” As we’ve noted before, there are far better ways to lobby for a cause than jeopardizing the health of millions of Americans.