Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Marlin and Swordfish Caught in Texas Waters May Pose Health Threat

Blue marlin caught along the coast of Texas should no longer be consumed because mercury levels detected in these fish pose a danger to human health, warns the Texas Department of State Health Services.

TDSHS also cautioned future mothers and children not to eat swordfish from these waters.

Women past childbearing age and adult men are being advised to limit their intake to no more than two meals a month. Women of childbearing age and children under 12 should not consume any swordfish caught in Texas coastal waters.

The advisory was issued after testing revealed that blue marlin and swordfish from the northwestern Gulf of Mexico contained mercury at concentrations that exceed DSHS health guidelines, which allow no more than 0.7 mg/kg.

The average levels found in blue marlin were 12.9 mg/kg, more than 18 times the DSHS guidelines. Levels detected in swordfish — 1.18 mg/k — were more than 1.6 times the recommended levels.

Regular or long-term consumption of blue marlin and swordfish from these waters may result in adverse health effects.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can also be a byproduct of human activity. If consumed regularly, it can cause harmful effects to the central nervous system, particularly in children including infants exposed before birth.

Symptoms of prolonged exposure include tingling of the skin, loss of coordination, visual and hearing impairment and slurred speech.

While most recreational fishermen catch and release blue marlin and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico, some fish is kept for personal consumption. Because of the large minimum catch size, any legally caught blue marlin will have high levels of mercury.

With increased recreational swordfish catches, anglers are eating more and larger swordfish that can have elevated mercury levels.

Previously, the state put out an advisory about eating king mackerel.

In that earlier advisory, Texas said king mackerel longer than 43 inches should not be consumed, and women of childbearing age and children under 12 should avoid eating any king mackerel longer than 37 inches.

King mackerel less than 37 inches in length are safe to eat on an unrestricted basis.

For figuring safety levels, 8 ounces of fish constitutes a meal.

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.foodsafetyanalysis.com/introduction M. “Mike” Mychajlonka, Ph. D.

    I wonder what the basis is for the last sentence in this article. I ask this because I am holding a can of StarKist Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water (Best By 5/23/15; No.: 2 144 SM EH SAWJ5 20:11) whose nutritional label asserts that the serving size consists of 2 oz. drained weight (56g – about ¼ cup). Is it possible to provide a reference for your stated assertion that “For figuring safety levels, 8 ounces of fish constitutes a meal”? If it is not possible to cite an authoritative reference, then how can the safety of fish ever be determined, since the manufacturer may simply manipulate the serving size to suit?

  • Ted

    That’s odd Mike. I remember when we used to catch marlin or mackerel without any nutritional labels tattooed on them at all. But times have changed. Last time I was out charter fishing we didn’t land any trophies — no 16oz cans. Just one 12 ounce can, some 8s and a couple of 6′s. With poor fishing like that, 2oz may, indeed, be an appropriate individual serving size for a large family, no? Keep in mind we are in a recession, after all.
    At least with the serving size listed most of us can do the arithmetic. What was your argument, again?

  • Minkpuppy

    Once again, FSN does a better job reporting health warnings in Texas than the local news does. I heard a 10 second blurb to tune in at 10 for a Gulf seafood warning Friday night, watched the whole newscast and they ended up not even mentioning it. Nothing on any of the local news websites either.
    I guess it wasn’t as exciting as the pawn shop that got robbed twice in one day.