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Revised fish aging techniques improve fish contaminant trend analyses in the face of changing Great Lakes food webs

Murphy, Elizabeth W., Smith, Marian L., He, Ji X., Wellenkamp, William, Barr, Edward, Downey, Philip C., Miller, Kenneth M., Meyer, Kathryn A.
Journal of Great Lakes research 2018 v.44 no.4 pp. 725-734
Salvelinus namaycush, chemical analysis, fish, food webs, monitoring, otoliths, polychlorinated biphenyls, retrospective studies, toxic substances, Lake Huron
Incorporation of fish age into the assessment of status and trends for persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes has become an important step for the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program (GLFMSP). A slowing in the rate of decline for total PCBs in Lake Huron beginning in 2000, led the Program to complete a retrospective analysis to assess how chemical contamination may be influenced by fish age. Analytical results suggest that fish age is an important variable when assessing contaminant trends and that the Program needed to revise its compositing scheme to group fish according to age, rather than by length, prior to homogenization and chemical analysis. An Interlaboratory comparison study of multiple age structures was performed to identify the most appropriate age estimation structure for the Program. The lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) maxillae was selected, over the otolith, as the most precise, accurate, and rapidly assessed structure for the Program when compared between laboratories and against the known age from the coded wire tag (CWT). Age-normalization practices can now be implemented when assessing contaminant concentrations and trends for the GLFMSP.