Hurricane stokes tuna consumption, Part 4

I am liveblogging Hurricane Dolly from Corpus Christi, Texas. It’s raining here in the Coastal Bend. Not too much wind. Thanks to the storm we have a “snow day” at school. Plus, I don’t have to water the lawn for a week. Things are looking up, but flooding is forecast for the region, so there could still be trouble.

My wife brought a camera to the supermarket last night to document the supermarket’s reaction to the storm here in South Texas. We expected large pallets of drinking water, but there’s no evidence of profiteering. Rather, it seems there was a run on sliced bread and tuna fish. Other people must have come to the same conclusion we did. Tuna fish sandwiches are good hurricane food.

tuna_sm.jpgbread_sm.jpg

So, now I’m wondering “what happens if global warming leads to more hurricanes, and therefore more tuna fish consumption”. That could be troubling.

The idea worries me partly because Chris Mooney is worried. Storm pundits are under the impression that global warming stokes hurricanes. Where hurricanes make landfall, tuna disappears off the shelves. Here lies the problem, and its hypothesis.

In the cities where canned tuna is tested, mercury levels are above the recommended dose for daily consumption. Daily intake of canned tuna may result in what’s been referred to as a “fish fog“. Through inference I will hazard that most canned tuna is above recommended levels of mercury. Therefore, an upward trend in sea surface temperatures could elevate local mercury intake and subsequently “stupidize” our population.

Consider a positive feedback loop wherein the global warming comedy “Sizzle” comes to play in a theater in Corpus Christi and “people just don’t get it” because folks have been eating too much tuna. The policy ramifications are enormous, like more seawalls in the face of rising seas. I should be worried. I know.

Peter Etnoyer (406 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.





8 comments on “Hurricane stokes tuna consumption, Part 4
  1. Now that was funny. Funnier, I’m betting, than anything in “Sizzle” judged from the reviews I’ve read!

    Maybe you ought to make a global warming mockumentary?

  2. Haven’t seen Sizzle yet, so I’ll reserve judgement. Kevin’s copy is in the mail to me now. I wouldn’t dare to reproduce such a thing.

    However, a sequel to Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou may be worth spilling ink over. I’m thinking “jaguar squid”…?

  3. You’re not serious. This “fish fog” nonsense is about 10 years out of date. Canned tuna is one of nature’s most perfect foods. Low-cost protein, nigh on omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, and very, VERY low in mercury. Plus, it’s high in selenium, which tends to counteract methylmercury anyway.

    There are few better things the people in hurricane zones could be eating and feeding their children as they cower in fear. Really.

  4. Carl,

    You’re right the piece is mostly in jest, but I am serious about high levels of mercury in seafood. People should not be discouraged from feeding their family canned tuna in an emergency, however, as you point out.

    The reference above is three years old, from 2005. You can follow the links back to the USA Today story to read about Stanford student Luke Lindley who was eating 4-6 cans of tuna a day for a few years until he tested his hair for mercury and found levels 44 times the government’s safety threshold.

  5. Hair mercury samples are notoriously misleading. All they show is how good the human body is at flushing mercury OUT of your system. (Mercury is excreted through the hair, not stored there.) Higher hair levels, in some cases, correspond to lower concentrations in blood — which is really what counts. Unfortunately, we have green groups running around scaring people with inexpensive hair-sampling tests, and a few idiot journalists lacking any science credentials (like the USA Today reporter) jump to the wrong conclusions.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but my biochem Ph.D isn’t buying it.

  6. You’re not bursting anyone’s bubble, Carl, but its good you’re thinking about this critically, because its an issue. I did some research for you. The rest you’ll have to do yourself, OK?

    Two MDs are on record supporting the hypothesis of elevated mercury content in the blood due to excessive fish consumption. One is in San Francisco and one at PubMedCentral. The latter, Dr. WC Roberts, notes the EPA estimates that “as many as 600,000 babies may be born in the USA each year with irreversible brain damage because pregnant mothers ate mercury-contaminated fish.” So, I guess you’re going to have to take this up with the medical community, and the EPA.

  7. Pingback: How will tuna fare in this economy? | Deep Sea News

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