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Open AccessArticle

The Influence of Fish Length on Tissue Mercury Dynamics: Implications for Natural Resource Management and Human Health Risk

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Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, 1000 Pope Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
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Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, North Carolina State University, Box 7633, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
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Department of Biology, North Carolina State University, Box 7617, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(2), 638-659; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10020638
Received: 21 December 2012 / Revised: 25 January 2013 / Accepted: 28 January 2013 / Published: 6 February 2013
Consumption of fish has well-known human health benefits, though some fish may contain elevated levels of mercury (Hg) that are especially harmful to developing children. Fish length is most often the basis for establishing fishery harvest regulations that determine which fish will ultimately be consumed by humans. It is, therefore, essential to quantify the relationship between fish length and Hg accumulation in regard to harvest regulations for effective fishery and public health policy. We examined this relationship for three sportfish from six lakes across North Carolina, USA. Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) had the lowest Hg levels and only the very largest fish in the most contaminated site exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Hg screening level. Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) had an intermediate level of Hg and larger individuals exceeded the USEPA screening level; however, they tended not to exceed this level before reaching the harvest length limit. Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) exceeded the USEPA screening level at sizes below the fishery length limit in two lakes, leaving only higher risk fish for anglers to harvest and consume. Removing the effects of fish age and trophic position, we found strong positive correlations between Hg and fish length for largemouth bass and black crappie. We suggest public health officials and wildlife managers collaborate to structure fishery regulations and length-based fish consumption advisories that protect consumers from Hg exposure and communicate the relative risk of fish consumption. View Full-Text
Keywords: fish size; mercury; fishery regulation; advisory; length limit fish size; mercury; fishery regulation; advisory; length limit
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Sackett, D.K.; Cope, W.G.; Rice, J.A.; Aday, D.D. The Influence of Fish Length on Tissue Mercury Dynamics: Implications for Natural Resource Management and Human Health Risk. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10, 638-659.

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