Mercury Bioaccumulation Response to Recent Hg Pollution Abatement in an Oceanic Predatory Fish, Blue Marlin, Versus the Response in a Coastal Predatory Species, Bluefish, in the Western North Atlantic Ocean

Monday, 14 December 2015: 15:25
2010 (Moscone West)
Richard T Barber, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States
The consumption of marine fish, especially predatory species high in the food chain, is the major route through which people in developed countries are exposed to mercury. Recent work on a coastal species, bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), determined that the mercury concentration in fish from the U. S. Mid-Atlantic coast decreased 43% from 1972 to 2011. This mercury decline in a coastal marine fish parallels the mercury decline in many freshwater fish in the U.S. and Canada during the same time period. The result heightens interest in determining whether or not there has been any change in mercury concentration in oceanic predatory fish species, that is, fish that are permanent residents of the open ocean, during the past four decades. To answer this question we compared mercury analyses we made in the 1970s on tournament-caught blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) with those we made from 1998 to 2013. This comparison indicates that from the 1970s to 2013 mercury concentration in blue marlin caught in the western North Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. east coast has declined about 45%, a decline that is remarkably similar to the decline reported in coastal bluefish. These results suggest that a large area of the western North Atlantic Ocean is responding to reductions in emissions of mercury in the U.S. and Canada with reduced mercury bioaccumulation in predatory fish.