BeneFISHiary, an app created in part by Office of Public Health Studies Assistant Professor Catherine Pirkle, provides location-specific data and the risks and benefits of Bermudian fish species. Pirkle worked in close collaboration with Philippe Rouja of the Ocean and Human Health Research Programme in Bermuda and Tidjane Tall of HUACTIVE.
App users can search or browse fish and get detailed information about the mercury concentrations and nutrients such as selenium and omega-3 fatty acids in that particular species. The app also provides information about the sustainability of local and imported fish, as well as which lower mercury level fish can substitute for their higher relatives.
The BeneFISHiary app was recognized with a 2016 International Association for Ecology and Health Small Grant Award. The app is in a beta version with plans for scale-up to other communities and enhanced features including updated fish inventories.
The app was developed following a study on the consumption of fish by pregnant women in Bermuda and the effectiveness of public health messaging on mercury in fish. The study, “Examining the Impact of a Public Health Message on Fish Consumption in Bermuda” was published in PLOS One. It found that public health messaging warning of the dangers of mercury exposure from consumption of certain fish appeared to be effective, but adjustments needed to be made to promote consumption of healthy and sustainable fish with lower mercury levels. The BeneFISHiary app was created to help consumers make those adjustments, as well as healthcare providers who counsel pregnant women.
The data for the app was collected in Bermuda, however, with additional funding, Pirkle sees the potential to expand the use of the app to Hawaiʻi and other coastal communities with strong ties to their local environments.