December 6, 2001
7:12 AM   Subscribe

We've had plenty of posts about dogs. . .we've had some posts about mercury. . . .but this has not been posted as yet, as far as my searches of the site can deduct. No compelling reason to post this, other than it's in my occupational field and it's interesting.
posted by Danf (8 comments total)
Wow, Danf, thanks! Clancy is my new hero. Tell me something - can he detect mercury in fish? Although Portugal is a fish-eater's paradise there's an increasing problem with mercury.
Even ecologically insensitive brutes are worried, as it really affects the flavour. It's universally accepted here as an irrefutable reason for sending fish back to the kitchen from whence it came.
And another question. I don't know whether it's within your competence, but it's the number two complaint after mercury. It's called fénico in Portuguese. It tastes horrible, ammonia-like. Do you have any idea what it is?
And does Clancy want to come over? :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:21 AM on December 6, 2001

Working dogs are so cool! "More than 1.3 tonnes of hazardous mercury has been collected at around 1,000 schools participating in the "Mercurius 98" project, led by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. And thanks to the clever mercury sniffer dogs Ville Sigmund and Froy at least SEK 7m has been saved in clean-up costs."
posted by Carol Anne at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2001

Miguel, the flesh of most cartilaginous fish (sharks, skates, rays) have a high level of uric acid. They have to be processed or prepared in a certain way to prevent the ammonia smell.

These types of fish are often sold as something - grouper, dolphin/dorado - other than what they really are.

I wasn't aware that you could taste mercury, even amounts above the "safe" limit. What does it taste like?

And if the mercury doesn't get you, there's always: ciguatera!
posted by groundhog at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2001


Ciguatera...brrr! But we Portuguese and you North Americans have little to worry about as we have the best waters for fish and crustaceans - the North Atlantic - in the world.
Ciguatera is for warmish-water fish; which we should all avoid. Mediterranean, Mexican, African - not to mention Asian waters. Very cold water fish, on the other hand, are too tough and flavourless.
Good-tasting fish - with harmless parasites - exist only in choppy, cool and briny seas.
My father, J.C.E.Cardoso, was Secretary-General of NAFO(the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)for ten years. Before that he was the Portuguese government's Director-General of Fisheries in Portugal for fifteen years.
So I knows my fish!
Shark, skate and ray could never be sold as grouper, dolphin or dorado in a half-decent market, as they are, as it were, a completely different kettle of fish
They always have a faint ammonia smell. Like all fish, they should be eaten as soon as they're landed. Frozen on board, if need be. All it takes is a day for that Xerox-smell to develop.

I'm sorry this is such a long tangent - but mercury makes fish grey and heavy-tasting, a bit like canned sturgeon - but chemical pollution is the biggest threat there is.

Anyway, there's this magnificent resource I was saving for a FPP but is too apposite not to leave here.
It guarantees you'll never again be fooled by fraudulent fishmongers and maitres d'!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:38 AM on December 6, 2001

Just to keep up the MeFi tradition that every issue has two (or more) sides, let me just say that mercury is fun. I can remember as a wee lad pilfering some out of the vacuum pumps in my father's lab, dumping it on the floor and chasing it around. Blobs of reflective, wiggly stuff scooting for the nearest low point.

Ah, for the days before we had hazardous waste. Didn't have any adverse effects on me. Nosireebob.

Minamata Bay put a quick end to this practice.

Tangentially, here's a list of 20th century chemical accidents.
posted by skyscraper at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2001

Miguel, great link. Thank you!

But there are a lot of great tasting warm-water reef fish - various species of grouper and snapper to name a few. Ciguatera only accumulates to toxic levels in larger fish on the top of the food chain - big barracuda, for example.
posted by groundhog at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2001

There are Mercury detecting dogs and then there are dogs that detect other things.
I am so, so, so sorry.
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2001

I had a adv. chem teacher who'd been mercury poisoned (it got under his wedding ring, causing a long-term exposure) and he developed a sensitivity - exposure to even small amounts would send him packing to the hospital. He didn't eat any fish at all, and man you should have seen him when anyone busted a thermometer, more high-stepping and loud-talking than you've ever seen.

He was quite mad, too. But no one could tell if it was from the mercury or from the natural madness that accrues from being an advanced chemistry instructor.
posted by UncleFes at 9:31 AM on December 6, 2001

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