Evidence of impaired health in yellow perch (Perca flavescens) from a biological mercury hotspot in northeastern north America



Few studies have investigated the effects of mercury (Hg) on wild fish from remote areas, even though these fish can have high total Hg concentrations. In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site (KNPNHS), Nova Scotia, Canada, concentrations of total Hg in many yellow perch (Perca flavescens) currently exceed the estimated threshold level for adverse effects in fish (0.2 µg Hg g−1 (wet wt), whole body). To determine whether Hg exposure is adversely affecting the general health of these fish, the authors collected male and female perch in the fall of 2009 and 2010 from 12 lakes within KNPNHS. The health endpoints condition, liver somatic index (LSI), and macrophage aggregates (MAs; indicators of oxidative stress and tissue damage) in the liver, kidney, and spleen were examined, and in female perch were compared between lakes and related to Hg concentrations measured in the muscle and liver tissue. No negative relationships between fish condition or LSI and Hg were found. However, within the liver, kidney, and spleen tissues of females, the relative area occupied by MAs was positively related to both muscle and liver Hg concentrations, indicating the health of these perch was adversely affected at the cellular level. These findings raise concerns for the health of these perch as well as for other wild fish populations known to have similarly elevated Hg concentrations. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:627–637. © 2012 SETAC