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Manipulation of growth to reduce mercury concentrations in sport fish on a whole-system scale

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Altering food web structure has been shown to influence mercury (Hg) concentrations in sport fish. Here, we describe a whole-system manipulation designed to assess the effectiveness of stocking relatively high-quality, low-Hg prey (rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) as a means of increasing northern pike (Esox lucius) growth to reduce Hg concentrations. A replicated pond experiment served as a reference for the lake experiment and provided information to parameterize bioenergetics simulations. Results indicate that stocking relatively high-quality, low-Hg prey is a rapid and effective method to reduce sport fish Hg concentrations by up to 50% through an increase in individual northern pike biomass. Large northern pike, the fish that tend to be the most contaminated, were affected most by the manipulation. The observed declines in northern pike Hg concentrations indicate that stocking might be used to reduce Hg concentrations in sport fish prior to harvest. However, after 1 year, northern pike Hg concentrations rebounded, suggesting that reductions would be temporary without continuous stocking. Thus, perhaps the most effective method of perpetually reducing sport fish Hg concentrations would be to manage for the development of a naturally reproducing forage fish population with relatively high energy content and low Hg concentrations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Boulevard South, Fort Myers, FL 33965, USA. 2: Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, 201 Wagar Building, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. 3: Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 122 East Edison Street, Brush, CO 80723, USA.

Publication date: January 16, 2012

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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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