Media watch: Mercury on the mind


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
September 7, 2009

In the waning days of summer, the mainstream media was scarce on seafood-related news.

Both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times covered the U.S. government’s decision to declare a moratorium on expanded fishing in the still-uncharted waters of the Arctic Ocean.

In addition to the typical end-of-summer seafood festivals, one story in particular has caught reporters’ eyes in the past two weeks.

Media outlets of every size and form picked up on an almost two-week-old announcement about the U.S. Geological Service’s study regarding mercury contamination in freshwater fish.

While a few news sources covered it shortly after its release on 18 August, the study seemed mostly to fly under the radar, no doubt to the collective relief of the seafood industry, despite the fact that the study did not involve ocean fish.

However, in the past week, more and more articles about the study popped up. The Economist, which usually shows both sides of a story, reported on the study, and painted seafood consumption negatively. The article, “Hold the sushi,” even cited a source that accused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of historically being “in the pocket of the tuna industry.” Both article also ignored the fact that the study involved only recreationally caught fish and not commercially harvested seafood.

In other mercury news, reporters in Hollywood and elsewhere continue to poke fun at “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven. A professional arbiter ruled Piven did not breach his contract with the Broadway producers of “Speed-the-Plow” when the he abruptly left the play last December. At the time, Piven’s doctor said he was suffering from mercury poisoning after eating too much fish.

The New York PostE! Online and the Associated Press were among the news outlets that covered the ruling.

Let’s hope a win for Piven doesn’t fuel mercury-in-fish scares among consumers.

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