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Let's back up. The Texas Department of State Health Services recommends that no one consume blue marlin because of high levels of mercury. A reader brought this to my attention when the article published about the blue marlin donated to charity after Poco Bueno. Christian Temple Church in southeast Houston received more than 1,000 pounds of blue marlin meat after the fishing tournament with the help of Fisherman's Chapel in Port O'Connor. Until the fall of 2012, State Health Services recommended limited consumption of blue marlin for women past childbearing age and adult men. Children and women of childbearing age were warned to avoid consumption entirely. The department then advised that consumption was unsafe for everyone.
The average level of mercury found in blue marlin caught in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico was 12.9 milligrams per kilogram, according to State Health Services. The recommended level should not exceed 0.7 mg/kg. "The DSHS realizes that most blue marlin caught in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico are released. However, there are a few fish brought into Texas ports every year. The 99-inch minimum length limit for blue marlin ensures that any landed blue marlin is large and produces a lot of fish steaks or fillets. The DSHS data indicates that any legal blue marlin will have an extremely high level of mercury and produce hundreds of pounds of fish steaks or fillets creating an unsafe mercury exposure for an individual or family," according to the department's website. Jason Nordin, pastor of Chistian Temple Church, said the church plans to distribute the donated redfish and speckled trout, but not the marlin. He was unaware that the health department changed its recommendation. The church tries to get it right, as do journalists. About 5,000 people attend the church's annual health fair where shots, haircuts, backpacks full of school supplies, shoes and groceries are offered for free. Once a month, the church hosts a food fair with Grocers Supply Co.and the Houston Food Bank. Groceries are loaded into vehicles from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Weekly, the church serves hot dogs and bottles of water as members and residents clean up neighborhoods at Adopt a Block events. The church parks its U-Haul, the Mobile Mission Monster Truck, which acts as a stage for hip-hop artist, Von Won. Raised on the southeast side of Houston, Von Won attracts crowds to his Saturday concerts. We do better when we know better. Toxic mercury levels found in blue marlin donated to a church in Houston should have been part my story.