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Influence of fish size and sex on mercury/PCB concentration: Importance for fish consumption advisories

Gewurtz, Sarah B., Bhavsar, Satyendra P., Fletcher, Rachael
Environment international 2011 v.37 no.2 pp. 425-434
Esox lucius, Micropterus dolomieu, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, Perca flavescens, Salvelinus namaycush, data collection, females, fish, fish consumption, game fish, gender differences, lakes, males, mercury, monitoring, polychlorinated biphenyls, Great Lakes, Ontario
Fish advisories for polychlorinated biphenyls (total-PCBs) and mercury are often given on a length-specific basis and fish sex is usually not considered. The relationship between concentration and length is well established for mercury, however its suitability for total-PCBs and the influence of sex over the large scale covered by most monitoring programs is not well known. Here we use what is perhaps the largest consistent sport fish contaminant dataset to evaluate the relationship between total-PCB/mercury and length and sex. We evaluated seven of the most commonly consumed fishes from the Canadian Great Lakes and two Ontario (Canada) inland lakes. For mercury, the relationship between concentration and length was significant (p<0.05) in most fish species and locations. For total-PCB, this relationship was also generally significant in Chinook salmon and lake trout, which are the species with the most advisories for this compound. In contrast, significant relationships were found less often for whitefish, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, and especially yellow perch. However, mercury usually drives fish consumption advisories for these species. Overall, our results support the protocol of issuing contaminant advice on a length-specific basis in fish monitoring programs with reasonable confidence when at least a moderate number of samples over the natural size range of a species are included in the analysis. Sex differences were common for walleye (males>females, p<0.05) but not other species, suggesting that an equal number of male and female walleye should be used in deriving fish advisories for walleye.