Methyl mercury in fish—a case study on various samples collected from Ganges river at West Bengal
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This study investigated the presence of total mercury (Hg) and organic mercury levels in the muscle of 19 common fresh water fish species captured from river Ganges, West Bengal, India. The total mercury level found in our study may not cause any toxic effect, but the methyl mercury (MeHg) level in some freshwater fish species was surprisingly very high and toxically unacceptable. The results of mercury analysis in various specimens indicated that some fish muscles tended to accumulate high levels of Hg, and approximately 50–84% of Hg was organic mercury. A strong positive correlation between mercury levels in muscle with food habit and fish length (age) was found. Wallago attu possessed the highest amount of organic mercury in their muscle tissues, and it was 0.93 ± 0.61 μg Hg/g of wet weight. Whereas in small-sized fishes Eutropiichthys murius, Puntius sarana, Cirrhinus mrigala, Mystus vittatus or Mystus gulio, and Tilapia mossambicus, it was below the detection limit. Contamination in Catla catla (0.32 ± 0.11), Anguilla bengalensis bengalensis (0.26 ± 0.07 μg Hg/g), Chitala chitala (0.25 ± 0.18), Rita rita (0.34 ± 0.14), and Ompok pabda (0.26 ± 0.04) was also above the 0.25 μg Hg/g of wet weight, the limit set by the PFA for the maximum level for consumption of fish exposed to MeHg. Though in Labeo rohita (0.12 ± 0.03), Mastacembelus armatus (0.17 ± 0.02), Pangasius pangasius (0.12 ± 0.16), Bagarius bagarius (0.12 ± 0.01), and Clupisoma garua (0.1 ± 0.01), concentration was below the recommended level, in Lates calcarifer (0.23 ± 0.0) and Mystus aor (0.23 ± 0.1), it was threatening. Interestingly, a low concentration of Hg was found in post-monsoon samples.
KeywordsBioaccumulation Mercury Methyl mercury Freshwater fish Ganges river
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