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Regional patterns in mercury and selenium concentrations of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) in the Pacific Ocean

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Mercury (Hg) concentrations in high trophic level fish, such as bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), can often exceed consumption advisories. Here we sampled 444 yellowfin and bigeye tuna to determine whether tuna Hg concentration varies regionally in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean and whether this variation corresponds to environmental characteristics that promote the bioavailability of Hg. Of the five regions sampled, we found significantly higher Hg concentrations in the eastern equatorial region (5°S–5°N; 110°W–120°W) for both species. Hg concentrations in this region were elevated by 0.22 and 0.17 µg·g–1 for yellowfin and bigeye tuna, respectively, compared with Hg concentrations in the other regions. Tuna selenium concentrations, which may alter the toxicity of Hg, did not vary by region. Oceanographic data indicated that the eastern equatorial region had elevated chlorophyll a concentrations and shallow minimum oxygen depths, both of which promote Hg methylation. These findings suggest that methylation-promoting mechanisms may translate into regional variation in the Hg concentrations of highly mobile, high trophic level fish.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-12-23

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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