Headline for Featured Item #1 Center for Coastal Studies Researchers to Trace Mercury Levels in Game Fish Food Webs of the Texas Coastal Zone - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
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Center for Coastal Studies Researchers to Trace Mercury Levels in Game Fish Food Webs of the Texas Coastal Zone

April 12, 2013

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. James Simons and Dr. Kim Withers, researchers with the Center for Coastal Studies, are attempting to trace methyl mercury throughout aquatic food webs of Texas game fish to improve management of this toxic pollutant in the Texas coastal zone.

Humans are mainly exposed to methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury, through consumption of marine and estuarine game fish. Elevated levels of this toxin can cause neurological damage in humans. The fetus of pregnant women who consume large amounts of fish and seafood is most at risk of methyl mercury exposure. 

“We will examine the tissues and major diet components of popular Texas coastal game fishes to determine how much methyl mercury actually exists in the food webs of our bay waters,” said Simons. “Once we have the results, we will construct a model of likely pathways of mercury accumulation in the food webs.”

Simons explains that high mercury levels and closures of fisheries could potentially have negative effects on fishing destinations and economies along the Texas coast; although, the current research does not necessarily indicate any serious problems at present.     

Simons and Withers will analyze the content of total and methyl mercury in food webs in Lavaca Bay, San Antonio Bay, and Nueces Bay to provide much needed information on mercury concentrations in the

tissues of fishes, shrimps, crabs, worms, and other components of the food webs of red drum, black drum and spotted seatrout. There is some evidence that these three game fish exhibit different levels of mercury from the same general area of the Texas coast.  The researchers suspect this can be attributed to differences in diet.

             While the concern about mercury is an international and national concern, the Gulf of Mexico does have some of the highest levels of mercury in its seafood. Although species such as mackerel, tuna, and sharks have some of the highest levels of mercury, it is uncertain how they accumulate the mercury.

The research project being conducted by Simons and Withers will be funded by a $79,850 grant from the Texas General Land Office Coastal Management Program (CMP) and $6,000 from the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. The study will complement a Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) project by providing much needed information on mercury concentrations in these aquatic food webs.

 

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