Oceana detects mercury-contaminated fish in Menorca (Balearic Islands)

The University of Barcelona finds levels higher than those permitted by European regulations in samples of monkfish and scorpion fish, species at the top of the food chain.

Press Release Date: January 2, 2014

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

The dumping of mercury-contaminated dredged material from the port of Maó into the sea would be an irresponsible act that is a hazard to health and fishing activity.

Oceana has detected mercury contamination in samples of monkfish and scorpion fish fished in the island of Menorca (Balearic Islands), in the Maó area. In the case of the monkfish, 8 of the 10 samples analysed exceeded the maximum levels permitted by European regulations1, 1 mg/kg of fresh weight, and for scorpion fish 7 out of the 10 samples analysed exceeded the maximum permitted levels of 0.5 mg/kg.

These fish were acquired by Oceana at fishmongers whose labels certified that they had been fished in Menorca –mostly in the fishing grounds of Maó– and they were analysed by the University of Barcelona.

10 samples of red mullet were also analysed. Red mullet is lower in the food chain than monkfish and scorpion fish, so it is less exposed to accumulations of heavy metals. None of the sample of this species exceeded the levels of heavy metals permitted by European regulations.

“We chose species with a small range of mobility to ensure that the contamination of these fish came from the island and not elsewhere”, explains Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. We can therefore say that in Menorca there are currently problems with mercury contamination and if the dredged material which is contaminated with this substance is dumped into the sea, as they intend to do in the port of Maó, the situation will get worse. This is an irresponsible act that is hazardous for the health of people and the island’s fishing activity”.

These problems with mercury contamination have already been detected in other species captured by the Spanish fleet. As a result of this, the Spanish Ministry of Health was forced to issue a recommendation that children aged under 3 and pregnant women should not eat certain species at the top of the food chain, such as bluefin tuna and swordfish.

Therefore, an increasing number of regulations are being implemented on a global level, such as the Minamata Convention, and in Europe, such as the Water Framework Directive, to put an end to the dumping of this substance that is so harmful to human health as it is a very potent neurotoxin and bioaccumulative.

Oceana is requesting that the Balearic Port Authority (APB) looks for alternatives to dumping these materials into the sea, as indicated by the London Protocol. It is therefore requesting that these materials are decontaminated and/or deposited on land, in a place that has been prepared to receive these substances so that they do not cause any problems.

More information:

Results of the analysis of the samples of fish from Menorca 

Mercury contamination.  Video of the area selected for dumping.