From: Reuters
Published January 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Experts Dismiss Hong Kong Government Fears of Post-Tsunami Fish

HONG KONG — Hong Kong's government has urged residents not to eat seafood from tsunami-affected areas as they may be tainted, but experts brushed off such fears on Wednesday, saying the effects of the catastrophe on fish were minimal.


The city's health authorities asked seafood traders to temporarily suspend imports of seafood from South Asian countries on Tuesday, saying fish may have ingested heavy metals churned up from the seabed by the seismic movements on Dec. 26.


Food and Environmental Hygiene Department assistant director Thomas Chung also told a radio programme that eating tainted fish would affect human health although consuming small quantities would have limited impact.


But experts have brushed off these fears.


"This is only a one-off incident and has very little impact on human health," said Lo Wing-lok, a Hong Kong doctor with Oxfam. "Besides, fishermen there won't be able to go out and catch fish for exports."


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Others questioned the logic behind the move, saying fish could be contaminated with heavy metals only over a long period of time.


"Heavy metals only accumulate over a long period of time. It can't be a short-term effect," said Clarus Chu, a marine conservation officer at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong.


Kenneth Leung, an associate professor of the Swire Institute of Marine Science in Hong Kong, said fish may be contaminated with heavy metal only if the tsunami took place at an industrial coastal area.


But in this case, fish would more likely be contaminated with pathogens rather than chemicals, as heavily populated India and Sri Lanka have no waste water treatment, Leung said.


In any case, Hong Kong's dining patterns are unlikely to change much.


Only 10-20 percent of fish imported into Hong Kong originates from the affected areas. Coral fish and tiger grouper, favourites of Hong Kongers, live only in clean water, Leung said.


Source: Reuters


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