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Mercury in Fish and Wildlife

Mercury is a naturally occurring toxic metal that has become an important environmental and human health concern. Mercury rapidly increases in concentration as is moves up the food chain and can concentrate to high levels in large predatory fish in certain environmental conditions (such as acidic lakes). The Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources is concerned about the impact of mercury on fish and wildlife and human consumers. While the Department of Health is responsible for protecting human health, and setting fish and wildlife consumption advisories, the Division monitors and studies mercury in the environment.
The Division began monitoring mercury concentrations in fish in the late 1960s and conducted a comprehensive Statewide Toxic Substances Monitoring Program from 1976 until 1993. More recently, the monitoring of fish for mercury occurs primarily for research purposes or is related to specific projects. Continued monitoring is necessary to document changes over time and to evaluate the many lakes and ponds that have never been tested. Also, recent research has expanded to include monitoring of mercury in terrestrial animals, including birds, mammals, and invertebrates. This research is important for identifying areas where mercury deposition and accumulation is high and documenting potential impacts to wildlife populations. Over the last several years, a number of reports and publications on mercury in fish and wildlife in New York have been produced.

Strategic Monitoring of Mercury in New York State Fish

This was a four-year project to monitor mercury primarily in walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and yellow perch from lakes, ponds and reservoirs across New York State. This project was supported in large part by funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Objectives included assessing fish from previously untested waters, predicting mercury levels in fish based on lake characteristics and water chemistry, and evaluating trends in fish mercury concentrations in waters where previous data were available.

Strategic Monitoring of Mercury in New York State Fish (PDF) (2.0 MB)

Trends in Mercury Concentrations in New York State Fish

This publication, derived from the "Strategic Monitoring of Mercury in New York State Fish" study, primarily assessed trends in mercury concentrations in yellow perch from a group of Adirondack lakes.

Citation: Simonin, H. A., J. J. Loukmas, L. C. Skinner, K. M. Roy, and E. A. Paul. 2009. Trends in Mercury Concentrations in New York State Fish. Bull. Environ. Cont. Toxicol. 83:214-218.

Lake Variability - Key Factors Controlling Mercury Concentrations in New York State Fish

This publication, also a product of the "Strategic Monitoring of Mercury in New York State Fish" study, examined the variability in fish mercury concentrations observed between nearby individual lakes.

Citation: Simonin, H. A., J. J. Loukmas, L. C. Skinner, and K. M. Roy. 2008. Lake variability: key factors controlling mercury concentrations in New York State fish. Environ Poll 154:107-115.

Assessing Mercury in the Delaware, Croton, and Upper Hudson Watersheds, 2007

Report BRI 2009-06 submitted to NYSDEC by BioDiversity Research Institute, Gorham, ME

Mercury and its potential toxic effects on terrestrial animals such as songbirds, bats, and raptors has received little attention, yet these species are widely distributed across watersheds and may be exposed to potentially high levels of mercury due to their food habits and habitat needs. To better understand terrestrial mercury pathways, mercury concentrations were assessed in leaf litter, soil, songbirds, invertebrates, raptors and bats from five sites in southeastern New York State.

Assessing Mercury in the Delaware, Croton and Upper Hudson Watersheds, 2007 (PDF) (1.2 MB)

Assessing Mercury Exposure and Spatial Patterns in Adult and Nestling Bald Eagles in New York State, with an Emphasis on the Catskill Region

Mercury in nestling and adult bald eagles was assessed among seven major New York watersheds and within the Catskill Park in response to growing concerns about mercury contamination and effects on wildlife in the northeastern US.

Assessing Mercury Exposure and Spatial Patterns in Adult and Nestling Bald Eagles in New York State, with an Emphasis on the Catskill Region (PDF) (871 KB)

Mercury and Organic Chemicals in Fish from the New York City Reservoir System

Important recreational fish species from 16 New York City water supply reservoirs were examined for polychlorinated biphenyls, organochlorine pesticides, dioxins, furans, and mercury.

Mercury and Organic Chemicals in Fish from the New York City Reservoir System (PDF) (832 KB)

Total and Methyl Mercury in the Neversink Reservoir Watershed

Total and methyl mercury concentrations in water, sediments, benthic macroinvertebrates, and fish from different aquatic habitat types (i.e., streams, ponds, and the reservoir) throughout the upper Neversink watershed were assessed. Also, methylation efficiencies in water and sediment, and accumulation patterns in biota were documented.

Total and Methyl Mercury in the Neversink Reservoir Watershed (PDF) (736 KB)