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Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Feb 5;53(3):1422-1431. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b06058. Epub 2019 Jan 23.

A Model of Mercury Distribution in Tuna from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean: Influence of Physiology, Ecology and Environmental Factors.

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Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) , LEMAR - UMR 6539 (UBO, CNRS, IRD, IFREMER), BP A5, 98848 Nouméa , cedex, New Caledonia , France.
Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie , Institut ISEA - EA 7484, LabEx ≪ Corail ≫, BP R4, 98851 Nouméa , New Caledonia , France.
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées , GET, UMR CNRS 5563/IRD 234/ Université́ Paul Sabatier Toulouse 3 , 14 avenue Edouard Belin , 31400 Toulouse , France.
Pacific Community , Oceanic Fisheries Programme , BP D5, 98848 Nouméa , New Caledonia , France.
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, GPO Box 1538, Hobart , TAS 2001 , Australia.
Northwest Fisheries Science Center , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , 2725 Montlake Blvd. East , Seattle , Washington 98112 , United States.
IRD/Sorbonne Universités (UPMC, Université Paris 06)/CNRS/MNHN, LOCEAN - UMR 7159, BP A5, 98848 Nouméa , New Caledonia , France.


Information on ocean scale drivers of methylmercury levels and variability in tuna is scarce, yet crucial in the context of anthropogenic mercury (Hg) inputs and potential threats to human health. Here we assess Hg concentrations in three commercial tuna species (bigeye, yellowfin, and albacore, n = 1000) from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). Models were developed to map regional Hg variance and understand the main drivers. Mercury concentrations are enriched in southern latitudes (10°S-20°S) relative to the equator (0°-10°S) for each species, with bigeye exhibiting the strongest spatial gradients. Fish size is the primary factor explaining Hg variance but physical oceanography also contributes, with higher Hg concentrations in regions exhibiting deeper thermoclines. Tuna trophic position and oceanic primary productivity were of weaker importance. Predictive models perform well in the Central Equatorial Pacific and Hawaii, but underestimate Hg concentrations in the Eastern Pacific. A literature review from the global ocean indicates that size tends to govern tuna Hg concentrations, however regional information on vertical habitats, methylmercury production, and/or Hg inputs are needed to understand Hg distribution at a broader scale. Finally, this study establishes a geographical context of Hg levels to weigh the risks and benefits of tuna consumption in the WCPO.


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