A new insult to common sense came yesterday from the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), in the form of an alarmist report about trace levels of mercury in 20 pieces of tuna sushi sold in Chicago. Like the group’s earlier attempts to scare sushi lovers in Los Angeles and San Diego (click here for our take), this effort smelled fishy from the get-go. The highest mercury level measured in these sushi samples was less than one-sixth of what the Food and Drug Administration calls “the lowest levels associated with adverse effects” to human health.

A spokesperson for the canned tuna industry, which has borne much of the brunt of recent mercury scaremongering, made an interesting observation. “Americans,” she told the Chicago Tribune, “eat less than 50 percent of the amount of fish that the USDA recommends Americans get in their diet.”

That’s a frightening statistic, and fearmongers who take advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge about biochemistry are partly to blame. Fish brings with it a host of well-documented health benefits (click here, here, here, and here). And there have been no scientifically documented cases of fish-related mercury poisoning since industrial mercury spills in 1950s and 1960s Japan (click here and see page 5).

It may be time for journalists to ask activists like those at STRP to put up or shut up. Have the trace levels of mercury in ocean fish like tuna — which are virtually all naturally occurring and have always been there — actually hurt anyone? Point to a recent case, published in the scientific literature. Just one. If green groups can’t produce any, Americans should be allowed to resume eating their fish in peace.