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Mercury Survey of Tasmanian River Scheduled

TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA - A new survey of mercury levels in Derwent estuary fish will commence later this month.

Christine Coughanowr, Director of the Derwent Estuary Program for the Tasmanian government said the fish survey will help confirm the findings of a pilot study in 2007 of fish caught in the estuary which found elevated mercury levels in bream and estuary caught brown trout.

Ms Coughanowr said: "The survey will expand the pilot study to test mercury levels in flounder and eels in addition to more samples of bream and estuary caught trout.

"These tests will significantly increase our knowledge of heavy metals in recreationally caught fish. The surveys will be conducted over two years and the data will be provided to the Department of Health and Human Services."

The new survey is supported by the Derwent Estuary Program through funding from the Australian Government's 'Caring for our Country' and is supported by other organisations including Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute (University of Tasmania), Nyrstar Hobart Smelter, Department of Health and Human Services, Inland Fisheries Service and community groups including TARfish and Fishcare.

This survey builds on over 20 years of mercury monitoring in Derwent estuary flathead and shellfish by the zinc works now operated by Nyrstar Hobart Smelter.

The Acting Director of Public Health, Dr Chrissie Pickin, reminded the public to avoid consumption of Derwent caught bream, oysters and mussels. She said: "Pregnant women and young children should limit consumption of flathead and all other Derwent caught fish to no more than one meal per week, and avoid eating other fish in the same week.

"Other adults should limit their consumption of flathead and other Derwent caught fish to no more than two meals per week.

"The public health advice will be reviewed when the recent survey work is completed and published.

"However I don't want Tasmanians to be hesitant about consuming fish generally.

"The health benefits are considerable: fish is a valuable source of protein, minerals, vitamin B12, and iodine and is low in saturated fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids," Dr Pickin said.

The current health advice in relation to Derwent caught fish is available in the recently updated brochure Should I eat Shellfish and Fish from the Derwent?.

It can also be seen ina Community Service Announcement to be telecast on Southern Cross Television. Both have been prepared by the Derwent Estuary Program.

Ms Coughanowr said the source of the mercury in Derwent estuary fish is thought to be linked to sediment contamination associated with historical wastewater discharges from industries.

Current discharges from these sources are monitored.

Further Reading

- You can find out more about mercury in fish by clicking here.

the Fish Site Editor

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