• Short Summary

    Dangerous levels of toxic mercury compounds have been found in fish caught off Israel's coast.


  • Description

    GV PAN Acre fishing port

    GV & SCUs Dr. Yannai speak to fisherman one of the carriers of mercury, holding fish (4 shots)

    GV Fishermen mend nets on boats

    SV PAN Dr. Yannai with container & boarding vessel (2 shots)

    GV & MV Fishing boat leave port (4 shots)

    GV & SVs Dr. Yannai takes sea water sample (2 shots)

    CU ZOOM TO MV Container in laboratory man adda solution to water (3 shots)

    GV & CU Technician injects extract from fish into gas chromatography instrument, Dr. Yannal looks on(3 shots)

    GV, SVs & CUs Technician starts instrument & charting proceeds results emerge (4 shots)

    Initials SGM/0020 SGM/0000

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Dangerous levels of toxic mercury compounds have been found in fish caught off Israel's coast.

    Dr. Shmuel Yannai of the Technion -- the israel Institute of Technology -- says that grouper and barracuda caught last May and June in Haifa Bay contained four times the level of mercury considered safe by health authorities.

    Working with fishermen in coastal villages, such as Acre, near Haifa, Dr Yannai collects fish and water samples for testing in his laboratories.

    Water samples are checked for dissolved methyl mercury, the most topic mercury compound. And samples of the fish are checked to match the levels of the compound in their flesh with the surrounding water. A large source of the mercury is industrial waste dumped in the water.

    In some cases, fish were found to have methyl mercury content a thousand times higher than the water in which they were caught.

    Methyl mercury is formed by microbes in the bottom sediment of bodies of water, converting several different kinds of mercury. It is readily absorbed by sea organisms, but is very slowly eliminated, and builds up.

    People eating the contaminated fish then absorb large quantities of the toxic chemical.

    Dr. Yannai says mercury can damage bone marrow, the brain and the nervous system and can result in death. In 1953 in Minimata, Japan, 202 people were poisoned by eating mercury-tainted fish and 52 died.

    Both the grouper and the barracuda are at the top of the aquatic food chain -- they are predators eating other fish, thereby greatly concentrating the mercury. Israeli Ministry of Agriculture figures show about 200 tons each of grouper and barracuda are caught and marketed annually and are popular eating fish.

    SYNOPSIS: This is the Israeli fishing village of Acre.

    Local fishermen are helping Dr Shmuel Yannai of the Israel Institute of Technology study mercury contamination in the fish they catch. In teats starting, last May, he has found some fish have absorbed four times the level of toxic mercury considered safe for human consumption.

    The fisherman have been taking Dr Yannsi out to gather samples on their fishing trips. In the tests, 36 fish were sampled from areas in Halfa Bay.

    Samples of water are taken in plastic bottles. The level of the dissolved mercury compounds in the water is tested for comparison with the fish caught in the ares. the most toxic chemically methyl mercury, readily absorbed by fish, is formed by microbial action in the bottom sediment.

    In the laboratory, the water is tested for its level of dissolved mercury. The samples from the fish tested -- barracuda and groupers -- showed some had mercury concentrations a thousand times greater than the water in which they were caught.

    The fish tested were predators, concentrating mercury in their own bodies by eating smaller fish. Dr Yannai says humane who eat the fish are endangered by the build-up of the chemicals which are only slowly eliminated from the body, but readily absorbed from food.

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