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Assessment of fish mercury levels in the upper St. Lawrence River, Canada

Neff, Margaret R., Robinson, Jennifer M., Bhavsar, Satyendra P.
Journal of Great Lakes research 2013 v.39 pp. 336-343
Esox lucius, Micropterus dolomieu, Perca flavescens, Sander vitreus, fish, fish consumption, lakes, mercury, rivers, surface water, Ontario, Quebec, Saint Lawrence River
The stretch of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, between the Moses–Saunders power dam to the eastern outlet of Lake St. Francis in Québec, is currently listed as an Area of Concern (AOC), and has restrictive fish consumption advisories in place, largely due to high mercury levels. This study examined long-term temporal trends of mercury concentrations in northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch from the St. Lawrence River, including the Cornwall AOC. In addition, differences in fish mercury concentrations among river sections were compared for each species using historical (1975–1979) and recent (2000–2011) data. Statistically significant declines in mercury concentrations were observed in all river sections for yellow perch (~40%), as well as in northern pike and walleye in at least one river section. For the river section encompassing the AOC, recent mercury concentrations are 33–59% lower than historical mercury concentrations for all four species. Further, a comparison of recent mercury concentrations between the AOC river section and other Ontario lakes/rivers suggests that AOC mercury values are within the 75th percentile of values for other Ontario water bodies in three of the four species considered. However, current fish mercury values for the AOC river section remain higher than one or more upstream river sections. These results indicate that recovery is still ongoing in this AOC.