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Blue marlin in gulf have high mercury levels, A&M study shows

GALVESTON, Sept. 10, 2004 As sport fishes go, the blue marlin is a king of sorts highly prized for its beautiful shape and its ferocious fighting ability when hooked.

That's the good news. The bad news is that many blue marlin caught in the Gulf of Mexico contain 20 to 30 times the acceptable levels of mercury.

Texas A&M University at Galveston researchers Jay Rooker and Gary Gill are trying to learn why the mercury levels are so high in blue marlin compared to similar fishes and why so many of them are potentially toxic timebombs.

Funded by the McDaniel Charitable Foundation of Santa Fe, Texas, the project aims to find answers to several key questions related to mercury accumulation in the flesh of pelagic fishes (those such as marlin, sharks, cobia, amberjacks and others). Rooker and graduate student Yan Cai sampled pelagic fishes in the Upper Gulf Coast region, from Port Aransas to Venice, La.

"We are attempting to get a good coverage area in the northwestern Gulf of marlin and other species in our survey of fish tissue mercury," Rooker says from his Galveston office.

Mercury is a highly toxic substance that is easily absorbed into tissues of aquatic creatures, especially fish. Human consumption of fish that contain mercury can pose severe health problems.

The harmful effects of mercury on living organisms range from kidney damage to reproductive failure and birth defects. The issue of elevated mercury content in seafood has received a great deal of public awareness in Gulf Coast states in recent years and several articles have focused on the possibility that oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are the major source of the mercury problem in the Gulf.

To investigate the source question, Rooker, Gil and Cai are examining mercury in pelagic fishes from areas with high concentration of petrochemical industries or production platforms and comparing these with other regions.

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Contact: Keith Randall
kr@univrel.tamu.edu
979-845-4644
Texas A&M University
10-Sep-2004


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