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Mercury levels in Pacific fish likely to rise in coming decades
Date:8/25/2013

and explained the previously observed increases in the mercury concentration of predatory fish with depth. They found that while methylation occurs in well-lit near-surface waters, sunlight destroys up to 80 percent of the methylmercury formed there, through a process called photochemical degradation.

"The crystal-clear waters surrounding Hawaii and the unique information that we had about the depths at which our local fish feed allowed us to clearly identify both the photochemical degradation of methylmercury at surface levels and the microbial production of methylmercury from inorganic mercury in deeper waters," said Popp, a University of Michigan graduate.

In addition, the isotopic composition of the mercury found in the fish tissues was "a nearly perfect match" with the chemical signature of mercury in the atmosphere known to travel long distances, far from pollution sources such as coal-burning power plants, Blum said.

That finding confirms an idea that was long-suspected but previously unsupported by hard evidence: "These results strongly support the hypothesis that long-range transport of mercury deposited to the ocean surface is ultimately what's ending up in these fish," Blum said.

The nine species of fish used in the study, listed from shallowest- to deepest-feeding, are flying fish, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, moonfish (opah), bigeye tuna, swordfish, and two species of lantern fish.


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Contact: Jim Erickson
ericksn@umich.edu
734-647-1842
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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