Volume 60

Mercury Levels in the Goliath Grouper: Is This an Anthropogenic Stressor of Concern?

Evers, D., R. Graham, C. Perkins, and R. Michener.
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Date: November, 2007

Pages: 617

Event: Proceedings of the Sixtieth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


Global levels of available methylmercury in aquatic ecosystems have increased dramatically over the past century. Recent findings in temperate North America have show that biological mercury hotspots exist, such hotspots can be related to local emission sources, and a wider variety of fish and wildlife are at risk to the toxicological effects of methylmercury than previously realized. Such new environmental detective efforts continue to demonstrate that aquatic species at high trophic levels with relatively long lifespans are at greatest risk. Although marine apex predators, such as sharks, billfish and tuna have collectively drawn the greatest attention because of their human consumption concerns, other marine species that have less commercial value have not been highlighted. The demographic features of the goliath grouper place it as a species of high risk to adverse effects from environmental mercury loads. Preliminary evidence of tissue mercury and stable isotope analyses from individuals in southern Belize demonstrates that muscle levels regularly exceed U.S. EPA advisory standards for human health. Coastal citizens in southern Belize commonly consume Goliath grouper. The regular consumption of large goliath grouper by sensitive groups of people, such as pregnant women, should be monitored, particularly in areas with biological mercury hotspots. The potential impacts of environmental mercury loads on groupers, such as lowered reproductive success and impaired growth rates, should also be studied to determine if mercury is an anthropogenic stressor of concern.

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