This French Caribbean island has banned fishing in all its rivers and some coastal areas for the next year after finding high levels of a controversial pesticide.
Recent studies by local health officials found more than double the accepted amount of kepone _ also known as chlordecone _ in 96 percent of samples taken at 40 locations across Martinique, a government statement said this week.
Concerns over chlordecone surfaced in 2007 after a French medical researcher suggested it may have affected cancer rates in Martinique and neighboring Guadeloupe. Last year, France pledged $51 million to monitor and eliminate high levels of the pesticide as it warned residents to watch what they ate and drank.
Guadeloupe already imposed a five-year ban on fishing in certain rivers and coastal areas after recording high levels of chlordecone, which was used on banana plantations until its ban in 1993. Earlier this year, the pesticide was added to a U.N.-sponsored treaty aimed at combating highly dangerous chemicals.
Thierry Touzet, director of Martinique’s veterinary services, urged islanders to buy fish from legal vendors to avoid possible contamination.
The majority of the island’s 400,000 inhabitants eat fish every day, a European Union Fisheries Commission report stated.
Local fishermen decried the ban, saying it strips them of a livelihood already hurt by high oil prices and foreign competition.
"Fishermen should not pay for those who polluted," said Marie Ademar of the Regional Fishermen Committee. "Our profession will be penalized by measures to protect the consumer, and we will be its first victims."
It’s unclear how much the ban will affect commercial fishermen because the industry has been largely unregulated and detailed statistics aren’t kept on them or the areas where they fish.
An estimated 4,000 fishermen work in Martinique and catch roughly 6,300 tons (5,700 metric tons) of fish a year.