The morning talks covered the socio-economic factors affecting mercury exposure and risk, a dynamic group of speakers working in different regions around the world to explore the connections between human development and seafood consumption. Each of the presentations touched on the importance of 'underlying processes' when trying to establish a cause and effect relationship between consumption and health. Researchers must consider a range of dietary factors such as how much, how often and what species of seafood is consumed, and where that particular species comes from (wild caught? farmed? local? imported?). Beyond seafood-specific data, researchers must also collect information on the subject's entire diet, as well as social, economic and environmental factors to determine and reduce potential exposure pathways.
The dialogue later progressed into the future applications of dietary research. When trying to determine the most appropriate outreach strategy to educate a particular audience, communicators must consider cultural, social, economic and political dimensions to best understand behavioral patterns and frame the message for the audience. The ultimate goal is not to dissuade people from eating seafood, rather to provide guidance on which options will enhance the health benefits (omega-3s, lean protein) while minimizing the health risks (neurotoxicity).
After an informative, exciting four days in Halifax, we are all looking forward to reading the new research coming out of the conference. Check SeaWeb's Marine Science Review for a thematic review of the latest papers to come out about marine science.
Until the next mercury conference, see you in Scotland!