PANNA: Pesticide Fishing Spreading in Mexico


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Pesticide Fishing Spreading in Mexico
June 29, 2001

A report released in May by the Mexican Environmental Enforcement Agency (PROFEPA) documents illegal use of pesticides for fishing in the pacific coast state of Michoacan. The report, the result of a four-month investigation, reveals that at least two insecticides are being used in fishing for "langostino," a lobster-like crustacean. Langostinos are considered a delicacy and are served primarily in expensive restaurants.

The chemicals being used for fishing in the region are the veterinary insecticides "Batestan plus" (deltamethrin) and "Asuntol" (coumaphos), both widely available in the region.

Deltamethrin, a pyrethroid, bioaccumulates and is considered moderately toxic to humans and a suspected endocrine disruptor. It is known to be highly toxic to aquatic species, including fish, amphibeans, aquatic insects and zooplankton. Coumaphos is an organophosphate rated "highly toxic" to humans by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and classified as an "extremely hazardous" substance by the World Health Organization. It is also a cholinesterase inhibitor.

PROFEPA condemned the practice of pesticide fishing but did not address the question of whether fish caught through this method posed a health risk to consumers. The agency did not investigate whether langostinos collected by pesticide fishing have been served at restaurants in tourist areas such as nearby Puerto Vallarta.

Additional evidence suggests that the practice of pesticide fishing may be widespread in Mexico. In late March of this year, two men were arrested in separate incidents in Michoacan for use of Batestan plus in fishing, and more than 340 langostinos were confiscated. Anecdotal reports indicate use of unidentified pesticides in at least two communities near the "El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve" in the state of Chiapas. According to a government biologist working on the Pacific side of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, people are fishing with pesticides to catch a shrimp-like crustacean locally known as "piguas."

In addition, in mid-2000, a Mexican environmental law nongovernmental organization, the Centro de Derecho Ambiental e Integración Económica del Sur (DASSUR), documented pesticide fishing in the Uxpanapa River, at the heart of biodiversity-rich Uxpanapa Valley in southern Veracruz near the Gulf of Mexico.

In this case, health effects from consumption of contaminated fish were documented. Fishers were using "Butox" which, like Batestan plus, has deltamethrin as an active ingredient. Acute illnesses of both adults and children linked to consumption of contaminated fish and shrimp were documented in various townships near Ejido Palancares, where the pesticide fishing takes place. Researchers frequently heard unconfirmed rumors of frequent abortions and developmental effects in children in the region. Additional research is needed to document these impacts.

DASSUR's investigation, a joint effort with PAN North America, resulted in a report and video documenting pesticide fishing in the Uxpanapa river and its effects. The project's next stage will involve further documentation of health effects, as well as education about the risks of pesticide fishing in other affected communities in Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas. The project will also work to enhance the capacity of affected communities to recognize and report pesticide fishing to the proper authorities and to use local press to raise awareness about the issue.

Sources: "Pesca con garrapaticidas en la Selva de Uxpanapa" by DASSUR in video and printed report. Available upon request from DASSUR. "Denuncia PROFEPA Envenenamiento de Peces," Grupo Reforma Servicio Informativo (http://www.mural.com/occidente/articulo/092807/).

Letter to Mr. Claudio Torres Nachón from Ing. Ambrosio Mayorg Guillen, from PROFEPA--Michoacan "Envenenamiento de Rios en el Municipio de Arteaga para la Captura del Langostino" June 19 2001, and confidential sources.

For toxicity and health effect data on the pesticides, visit PANNA's pesticide database at http://www.pesticideinfo.org.

Contact: Claudio Torres Nachón- Director DASSUR, Primo Verdad 23-4, Xalapa, Ver. Mexico 91000; phone (+52)28 18 2388; fax (+52) 28 18 2028; email dassur@prodigy.net.mx.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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