§ Mr. Alton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what are the levels of mercury found in the fish in Liverpool bay; and whether he will make a statement;
(2) what are the levels of mercury found in fish in the Irish sea; and whether he will make a statement;
(3) if his Department has undertaken any studies into the effects of human consumption of fish with unacceptable levels of mercury found in them; and if he will make a statement;
(4) if he is satisfied that the official environmental quality standard of 0.3 mg. of mercury per kilo is a safe level;
(5) if he intends to renew the licence granted to the North West water authority for the sea dumping of mercury under the Dumping at Sea Act 1974 when that licence expires.
§ Mr. Gummer
As part of its comprehensive programme for the protection of the marine environment, my Department regularly undertakes studies to monitor the level of mercury in fish landed from Liverpool bay and the Irish sea. These studies indicate that in 1984 the average mercury level in fish from Liverpool bay was 0.27mg/kg, whilst in fish from the Irish sea it was between 0.27 and 0.1mg/kg. These levels are lower than the environmental quality standard of 0.3mg/kg laid down by EC directives 82/176 and 84/156 on mercury discharges, which is designed to set a safe level for the protection of the marine environment. My Department has also conducted three studies of the relationship between high intakes of mercury from fish and blood concentrations of mercury in man. The conclusion of these studies was that we should follow the WHO advice on the intake of mercury. The situation in Liverpool bay is under close surveillance and no further licence for the disposal of sewage sludge to sea will be issued to the North-West water authority until the relevant information has been fully evaluated.