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Success of Bermudian app is set to spread

An award-winning Bermudian phone app is set to see its success replicated in Hawaii and Quebec.

Released last December, BeneFISHiary compiles the nutrient value and mercury concentrations of local and imported fish species to Bermuda.

It is specifically aimed at pregnant and nursing women, as well as children, all of whom are more susceptible to high levels of the neurotoxin.

The app, designed by Canadian firm Huactive, is the result of collaborations between the departments of Health and Conservation Services, local obstetricians and the Laval University in Canada.

It has been downloaded more than 700 times, and picked up the 2016 Small Grant Award from the International Association for Ecology and Health.

“I hope people like our app and that it's proving beneficial,” said epidemiologist Catherine Pirkle, who created BeneFISHiary with conservationist Dr Philippe Rouja and designer Tidjane Tall.

“We received a really positive reception from a number of doctors on the island. One even said she would use it in her prenatal consultations.”

Dr Pirkle, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, is now looking to expand its format to her resident state and to the Nunavik territory in Quebec.

“A lot of the concerns in Hawaii are similar to those in Bermuda. Both populations have an incredibly strong connection to the ocean,” she said.

“Both also have a very heavy fish consumption, which brings about many health benefits, but there are also concerns that certain fish species can have elevated mercury concentration.”

The team behind BeneFISHiary is also hoping to raise $20,000 in funding to update the app in Bermuda.

The local data on the fish, based on a study of 307 specimens of 43 species, is 15 years old.

“We would like to make the estimates more accurate, so it's worthwhile revisiting some of these measures,” Dr Pirkle said.

During the early 2000s, pregnant Bermudian women were found to have high enough mercury levels in their systems from eating fish to endanger their unborn children.

Since then, great efforts have been made to ensure that women do not exclude fish from their diets altogether during pregnancy — but rather make better choices in what they eat.

Dr Pirkle added that BeneFISHiary's ultimate goal remains bridging the communication gap between healthcare authorities and pregnant women, as well as educating users about sustainability.

See www.benefishiary.com for more on the app.

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Published August 22, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 22, 2016 at 12:24 am)

Success of Bermudian app is set to spread

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