, Volume 14, Issue 1-2, pp 163-180

Mercury in Freshwater Fish of Northeast North America – A Geographic Perspective Based on Fish Tissue Monitoring Databases

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Abstract

As part of an initiative to assemble and synthesize mercury (Hg) data from environmental matrices across northeastern North America, we analyzed a large dataset comprised of 15,305 records of fish tissue Hg data from 24 studies from New York State to Newfoundland. These data were summarized to provide mean Hg concentrations for 40 fish species and associated families. Detailed analyses were carried out using data for 13 species. Hg in fishes varied by geographic area, waterbody type, and waterbody. The four species with the highest mean Hg concentrations were muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), walleye (Sander vitreus), white perch (Morone americana), and northern pike (Esox luscius). Several species displayed elevated Hg concentrations in reservoirs, relative to lakes and rivers. Normalized deviations from mean tissue levels for yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) were mapped, illustrating how Hg concentrations in these species varied across northeastern North America. Certain geographic regions showed generally below or above-average Hg concentrations in fish, while significant heterogeneity was evident across the landscape. The proportion of waterbodies exhibiting exceedances of USEPA’s criterion for fish methylmercury ranged from 14% for standard-length brook trout fillets to 42% for standard-length yellow perch fillets. A preliminary correlation analysis showed that fish Hg concentrations were related to waterbody acidity and watershed size.