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Trophic influences on mercury accumulation in top pelagic predators from offshore New England waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean

Teffer, Amy K., Staudinger, Michelle D., Taylor, David L., Juanes, Francis
Marine environmental research 2014 v.101 pp. 124-134
Alopias vulpinus, Coryphaena hippurus, Isurus oxyrinchus, Thunnus alalunga, Thunnus albacares, United States Environmental Protection Agency, bioaccumulation, body size, diet, mercury, predators, sharks, tuna, New England region, Northwest Atlantic
Trophic pathways and size-based bioaccumulation rates of total mercury were evaluated among recreationally caught albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus), and dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) from offshore southern New England waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean between 2008 and 2011. Mercury concentrations were highest in mako (2.65 ± 1.16 ppm) and thresher sharks (0.87 ± 0.71 ppm), and significantly lower in teleosts (albacore, 0.45 ± 0.14 ppm; yellowfin, 0.32 ± 0.09 ppm; dolphinfish, 0.20 ± 0.17 ppm). The relationship between body size and mercury concentration was positive and linear for tunas, and positive and exponential for sharks and dolphinfish. Mercury increased exponentially with δ 15N values, a proxy for trophic position, across all species. Results demonstrate mercury levels are positively related to size, diet and trophic position in sharks, tunas, and dolphinfish, and the majority of fishes exhibited concentrations greater than the US EPA recommended limit.