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Mercury contamination in freshwater, estuarine, and marine fishes in relation to small-scale gold mining in Suriname, South America
Mol, J.H.; Ramlal, J.S.; Lietar, C.; Verloo, M. (2001). Mercury contamination in freshwater, estuarine, and marine fishes in relation to small-scale gold mining in Suriname, South America. Environ. Res. 86(2): 183-197. dx.doi.org/10.1006/enrs.2001.4256
In: Environmental Research. Elsevier: Amsterdam. ISSN 0013-9351, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Keywords
    Pisces [WoRMS]; Marine; Brackish water; Fresh water
Author keywords
    mercury pollution; total mercury; fish; Amazon

Authors  Top 
  • Mol, J.H., more
  • Ramlal, J.S.
  • Lietar, C.
  • Verloo, M., more

Abstract
    The extent of mercury contamination in Surinamese food fishes due to small-scale gold mining was investigated by determination of the total mercury concentration in 318 freshwater fishes, 109 estuarine fishes, and 110 fishes from the Atlantic Ocean. High background levels were found in the piranha Serrasalmus rhombeus (0.35 μg Hg g−1 muscle tissue, wet mass basis) and the peacock cichlid Cichla ocellaris (0.39 μg g−1) from the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. Average mercury levels in freshwater fishes were higher in piscivorous species than in nonpiscivorous species, both in potentially contaminated water bodies (0.71 and 0.19 μg g−1, respectively) and in the control site (0.25 and 0.04 μg g−1, respectively). Mercury concentrations in piscivorous freshwater fishes were significantly higher in rivers potentially affected by gold mining than in the control site. In 57% of 269 piscivorous freshwater fishes from potentially contaminated sites, mercury levels exceeded the maximum permissible concentration of 0.5 μg Hg g−1. The highest mercury concentrations (3.13 and 4.26 μg g−1) were found in two piranhas S. rhombeus from the hydroelectric reservoir Lake Brokopondo. The high mercury levels in fishes from Lake Brokopondo were to some extent related to gold mining because fishes collected at eastern sites (i.e., close to the gold fields) showed significantly higher mercury concentrations than fishes from western localities. In the estuaries, mercury levels in ariid catfish (0.22 μg g−1) and croakers (0.04–0.33 μg g−1) were distinctly lower than those in piscivorous fishes from contaminated freshwater sites. In the isolated Bigi Pan Lagoon, the piscivores snook Centropomus undecimalis (0.04 μg g−1) and tarpon Megalops atlanticus (0.03 μg g−1) showed low mercury levels. Mercury levels were significantly higher in marine fishes than in estuarine fishes, even with the Bigi Pan fishes excluded. High mercury concentrations were found in the shark Mustelus higmani (0.71 μg g−1), the crevalle jack Caranx hippos (1.17 μg g−1), and the barracuda Sphyraena guachancho (0.39 μg g−1), but also in nonpiscivorous species such as Calamus bajonado (0.54 μg g−1), Haemulon plumieri (0.47 μg g−1), and Isopisthus parvipinnis (0.48 μg g−1). Mercury levels were positively correlated with the length of the fish in populations of the freshwater piscivores S. rhombeus, Hoplias malabaricus, and Plagioscion squamosissimus, in estuarine species (Arius couma, Cynoscion virescens, and Macrodon ancylodon), and in S. guachancho from the Atlantic Ocean.

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