Spain panned for ignoring toxicity in fish


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
August 17, 2010

Oceana is criticizing the Spanish government for failing to provide information on the toxicity of heavy metals such as methylmercury in the country’s fish species.

Welcoming a decision by the Spanish High Court forcing the Secretary General of the Sea to provide the data, Oceana initially petitioned the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs in 2007 to adhere to a law requiring right of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.

The campaigners repeated their request in December 2009, also calling for the list of Spanish longline vessels authorized by the Secretariat to remove shark fins on board.

“According to our legal system, citizens and NGOs are entitled to access information of an environmental nature,” said Ana Barreira, Oceana lawyer and director of the International Institute for Law and the Environment. “It is unfortunate that some administrations still stand in the way. Having to go to court for this right highlights flaws in the rule of law and is a waste of resources.”

Oceana is the world’s largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, collaborating on strategic scientific campaigns to identify problems and solutions. Its team of scientists work closely with economists, lawyers and advisers.

Xavier Pastor, Oceana’s executive director for Europe, added: “The transparency of information, obtained using public resources, is imperative for organizations like ours to carry out their tasks effectively in the conservation of marine resources and ecosystems. We will not hesitate to use all legal means at our disposal to access that data. The government promised transparency of information. They should practice it.”

A study published in 2009 by Barcelona’s Agency for Public Health evaluated methylmercury levels in seafood products among the Catalan population between 2001 and 2007. Analyzing consumption data from 2,158 people, mercury intake was detected in 32.8 percent of samples. The general population’s average weekly intake of mercury was lower than the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives provisional tolerable weekly intakes. Fish was the main contributor to this value.

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