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Screening‐level risk assessment of methylmercury for non‐anadromous Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus)

New publication by Benjamin D. Barst, Paul E. Drevnick, Derek C.G. Muir, Nikolaus Gantner, Michael Power, Günter Köck, Nathalie Chéhab, Heidi Swanson, Frank Rigét, Niladri Basu.


Non‐anadromous forms of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), those that are restricted to lakes and rivers, typically have higher mercury (Hg) concentrations than anadromous forms, which migrate to and from the sea. Using tissue burden data from the literature and our own analyses, we performed a screening‐level risk assessment of methylmercury (MeHg) for non‐anadromous Arctic char. Our assessment included 1569 fish distributed across 83 sites. Site‐specific mean total Hg concentrations in non‐anadromous Arctic char muscle varied considerably from 0.01 to 1.13 µg/g wet weight, with 21% (17 of 83 sites) meeting or exceeding a threshold‐effect level in fish of 0.33 µg/g wet weight, and 13% (11 of 83 sites) meeting or exceeding a threshold‐effect level in fish of 0.5 µg/g wet weight. Of the sites in exceedance of the 0.33‐µg/g threshold, 7 were located in Greenland and 10 in Canada (Labrador, Nunavut, and Yukon). All but one of these sites were located in interfrost or permafrost biomes. Maximum total Hg concentrations exceeded 0.33 µg/g wet weight at 53% of sites (40 of the 75 sites with available maximum Hg values), and exceeded 0.5 µg/g wet weight at 27% (20 of 75 sites). Collectively, these results indicate that certain populations of non‐anadromous Arctic char located mainly in interfrost and permafrost regions may be at risk for MeHg toxicity. This approach provides a simple statistical assessment of MeHg risk to non‐anadromous Arctic char, and does not indicate actual effects. We highlight the need for studies that evaluate the potential toxic effects of MeHg in non‐anadromous Arctic char, as well as those that aid in the development of a MeHg toxic‐effect threshold specific to this species of fish. Environ Toxicol Chem 2019;38:489–502. © 2018 SETAC