Month: March 2011

What should I know about seals?

here are 18 seal species still inhabiting the seas today, but not long ago there were 19 species. The Caribbean monk seal was last sighted in 1952 and is now listed as extinct.  One of the seal species on the endangered species list is the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi).

ribbon-sealSeals can be found in all the oceans and a few freshwater lakes, one of which is Lake Baikal in Russia which is the only place in the world where you can find it.  There can be big differences between different species.  The largest seal, the elephant seal, can weigh many times more than smallest seal. The elephant seal can weigh more than 5,000 pounds! Adult ringed seals, the smallest of all pinnipeds, can weigh as little as 110 pounds.  Another difference is the coloration of the different seal species.  The ribbon seal has white markings, like a ribbon, that encircle parts of their bodies. Some other seals are nearly uniform in color.

What are the characteristics of all seals? Well, seals do not have an ear that extends from the skull, but they can still hear well. Also, seals propel themselves through the water with their rear flippers while their front flippers are used for steering.  The front flippers of seals are short with sharp claws.  Seals cannot use their rear flippers to walk on land or ice and most appear awkward when moving on these surfaces.  Seals have a torpedo like shape in the water and use their rear flippers to move rapidly to catch prey and escape predators.

What do women and caregivers need to know about mercury and seafood?

seafood-mercuryFish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet. Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children’s proper growth and development. So, women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits.

However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. For most people, the risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern. Yet, some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system. The risks from mercury in fish and shellfish depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the fish and shellfish.

By following these 3 recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.

1. Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tile fish because they contain high levels of mercury.

2. Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

  1. Some of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish, Ocean Perch, flounder, clams, scallops, Hake, and oysters.
  2. Another commonly eaten fish, albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.

3. Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week. Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions