Research Project Summary Information
Strategic Monitoring of Mercury in New York State Fish(ST7612-1)
During the last century, atmospheric deposition has caused an increase in mercury (Hg) levels in freshwater ecosystems in the Northeastern United States. In many areas of this region, Mercury levels have risen to levels high enough to threaten aquatic ecosystem health and pose potential health risks to people who consume fish from these areas. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has issued consumption advisories due to high mercury levels in fish for 85 specific waters as well as two regional advisories (Adirondacks and Catskills). There have been reductions in atmospheric Mercury emissions in the Northeast and there is interest in further reducing Mercury emissions from the utility sector. The extent to which reduction in Mercury emissions has impacted aquatic resources, and anticipated impacts of future reductions, has not been well quantified.
This project will use an existing fisheries database that contains mercury concentration and other data for fish from 275 lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Experienced staff will resurvey a number of these waters to supplement the existing database, and will survey many new waters in NY State Parks. All fish samples will be analyzed for both mercury and selenium concentrations. The project will provide information about changes in Hg concentrations in fish collected in lakes and rivers, determine if changes in concentration have been taking place in recent years, provide data on fish selenium concentrations, and assist NYSDOH with assigning fish consumption advisories.
This project will provide environmental and human health-related data that would not otherwise be available.
The data showed that fish from most Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve lakes have higher mercury concentrations than fish from other regions of the State. Standard size (229 mm, 9 in.) yellow perch from Adirondack and Catskill lakes had a median mercury concentration of 382 ng/g, and perch from lakes outside of these parks had a median concentration of 162 ng/g. Variability in fish mercury concentrations between nearby individual lakes may be significant due to differences in water chemistry, lake productivity, presence or absence of a dam on the outlet, and the abundance of wetlands in the watershed. Fish length, lake pH, specific conductivity, and lake water mercury concentration were significantly correlated with mercury in fish. Data from 12 Adirondack lakes were used to evaluate mercury trends in fish over time, and indicated an average decline of 16% in yellow perch mercury concentration over the past 15 years. Data collected for the project have been used by the New York State Department of Health to issue new fish consumption advisories on numerous lakes. Project data were also the impetus behind new region-wide advice for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
Bureau of Budget Services 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233
Environmental Monitoring & Research
NYSERDA Contact Information
R&D - Environment & Energy Res