Caribbean launches project to test for mercury in fish

Trinidad and Tobago is one of several Caribbean countries that will soon be participating in a biomonitoring project to evaluate mercury levels in fish regularly consumed in the region.

Titled Fish Mercury Biomonitoring in the Caribbean Region, the project “seeks to determine the mercury concentration of commonly consumed fish species. The species to be sampled will be determined on a national basis,” said Jewel Batchasingh, acting director of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean Region (BCRC-Caribbean).

BCRC-Caribbean provides services for the implementation of important conventions, including the Minamata Convention on Mercury, to which countries in the region are signatories, with a view to helping these states fulfill their convention obligations.

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is not a signatory to the Minamata Convention ... While the government of Trinidad and Tobago supports the objective of the Minamata Convention to protect human health and the environment from the effects of mercury, it is not yet in a position to ratify the Convention due to absence of information,”  Batchasingh told SeafoodSource via email.

“In this regard, they have indicated that a number of steps at a national level are being taken to become a Party to the Convention and it is anticipated that Trinidad and Tobago’s current involvement in an ongoing Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) project will enable them to do so,” Batchasingh said.

The MIA in the Caribbean project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, began in August 2016 and is expected to be completed in August of this year. Preliminary findings of that project with regard to Trinidad and Tobago show that mercury enters the environment from the country's important oil and gas industry, its manufacturing industries, as well as waste disposal. The outcomes of the Minamata Initial Assessments are expected to support further analysis of human health and the environment in the Caribbean, Batchasingh said.

The Fish Mercury Biomonitoring in the Caribbean Region project is scheduled to begin soon. Funded by the government of Switzerland, which is a party to the Minamata Convention, “the project will involve the collection of five to ten samples each of five to 12 commonly consumed fish species in each of the participating countries but to cover only 40 samples in total,” Batchasingh told SeafoodSource.

“The selection of fish species to be sampled as well as the locations for collection of samples will be informed by the governments of each of the countries in collaboration with the technical consultants to determine species of concern,” Batchasingh added.

Reporting from the Caribbean