Locational differences in mercury and selenium levels in 19 species of saltwater fish from New Jersey

Joanna Burger, Christian Jeitner, Michael Gochfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Individuals who fish, and their families that ingest self-caught fish, make decisions about where to fish, what type of fish to eat, and the quantity of fish to eat. While federal and state agencies often issue consumption advisories for some fish with high mercury (Hg) concentrations, advisories seldom provide the actual metal levels to the general public. There are few data for most saltwater fish, and even less information on variations in Hg levels in fish within a state or geographical region. The objective of this study was to provide Hg concentrations from 19 species of fish caught in different locations in New Jersey to (1) test the hypothesis that mean metal levels vary geographically, (2) provide this information to individuals who fish these coastal waters, and (3) provide a range of values for risk assessors who deal with saltwater fish exposure in the Northeastern United States. Selenium (Se) was also examined because of its purported moderating effect on the toxicity of Hg. Hg levels showed significant geographical variation for 10 of 14 species that were caught in more than one region of New Jersey, but there were significant locational differences for Se in only 5 of the fish. Mercury levels were significantly lower in fish collected from northern New Jersey (except for ling, Molva molva), compared to other regions. As might be expected, locational differences in Hg levels were greatest for fish species with the highest Hg concentrations (shark, Isurus oxyrinchus; tuna, Thunnus thynnus and T. albacares; striped bass, Morone saxatilis; bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix). Fishers and their families might reduce their risk from Hg exposure not only by selecting fish generally lower in Hg, but by fishing predominantly in some regions over others, further lowering the potential risk. Health professionals might use these data to advise patients on which fish are safest to consume (in terms of Hg exposure) from particular geographical regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-874
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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