Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 355
Title: A comparison of the non-essential elements cadmium, mercury, and lead found in fish and sediment from Alaska and California
Author: J. P. Meador, D. W. Ernest, Anna N. Kagley
Publication Year: 2005
Journal: Science of the Total Environment
Volume: 339
Issue: 1-3
Pages: 189-205

 Concentrations of three non–essential elements (cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb)) were determined in sediment and fish from several locations in Alaska (AK) and California (CA) and used to examine differences in bioaccumulation within and between geographic locations.  We analyzed tissue (liver, muscle, gill, and stomach contents) from white croaker (Genyonemus lineatus) and English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus) in California and flathead sole (Hippoglossoides elassodon) in Alaska, in addition to several species of invertebrates (mercury only).  As found in previous work on arsenic (As) [Meador et al., 2004], Cd in fish liver exhibited a negative correlation with sediment concentrations.  No such correlations were found for Hg and Pb when fish liver and sediment were compared; however, these metals did exhibit a positive relationship between liver and organic carbon normalized sediment concentrations, but only for the CA sites.  Sediment concentrations of Hg at the AK sites were lower than those for the CA sites; however, AK invertebrates generally bioaccumulated more Hg than CA invertebrates.  Conversely, Hg bioaccumulation was higher in CA fish.  Even though ratios of total metal/acid volatile sulfides (AVS) in sediment were one to two orders of magnitude higher for the AK sites, bioaccumulation of these elements was much higher in fish from the CA sites.  Bioaccumulation factors ([liver]/[sediment]) (BAFs) were highest at relatively clean sites (Bodega Bay and Monterey), indicating that elements were more bioavailable at these sites than from more contaminated locations.  The observation of high BAFs for As in fish from Alaska and low BAFs for the California fish, but reversed for Cd, Hg, and Pb in this study, implies that differences in fish species are less important than the unique geochemical features at each site that control bioavailability and bioaccumulation and the potential sources for each element.  Additionally, these data were also used to examine the metal depletion hypothesis, which describes the inverse relationship between elements and organic contaminants documented in some monitoring studies.  Our results suggest that the enhanced bioavailability of the metals at some uncontaminated sites is the main determinant for the inverse correlation between metal and organic contaminants in tissue.

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