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Patterns and trends of fish mercury in New York State


In the mid-2000s a survey was conducted to evaluate fish mercury in lakes across New York State. Approximately 10 years later a second survey examining adult sportfish from 103 lakes and reservoirs was conducted to evaluate the response of fish mercury to recent declines in US mercury emissions. Of those lakes, 43 were part of the earlier survey and were examined to determine if mercury concentrations in four popular sport species, Yellow Perch, Walleye, and Small- and Largemouth Bass, declined in response to decreasing emissions. Water samples were also collected at 35 of these lakes and analyzed for mercury, methylmercury and other analytes. The Adirondack and Catskill regions remain biological mercury hotspots with elevated concentrations in fish. The most widely sampled species, Yellow Perch, showed significant increases in mercury in the Northeast and West regions of New York State over the past decade. The increases in Yellow Perch mercury is not consistent with significant reductions in water concentrations of both total and methylmercury observed corresponding in lake water samples. This discrepancy suggests watershed and in-lake processes beyond mercury emissions, such as recovery from acid deposition, impacts from climate change, or changes in food web structure may be controlling fish mercury concentrations. These results demonstrate a need for a consistent, long-term program to monitor fish mercury to inform the status of mercury contamination in New York State.

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Support for this study was provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and the National Science Foundation through the National Science Foundation Research Training program through the Educational Model Program of Water Energy Research (EMPOWER). NYSERDA has not reviewed the information herein, and the opinions expressed in this report to not necessarily reflect those of NYSERDA or the State of New York. This research does not reflect the official positions and policies of the US EPA. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DGE-1449617 and by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) under Award No. 034357. NYSERDA has not reviewed the information contained herein, and the opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of NYSERDA or the State of New York.

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Correspondence to Geoffrey Millard.

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Millard, G., Driscoll, C., Montesdeoca, M. et al. Patterns and trends of fish mercury in New York State. Ecotoxicology (2020).

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