Scup, photo/BoatingLocal.

The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation has awarded $12,000 to David Taylor, Ph.D., professor of marine biology at Roger Williams University, to study mercury contamination in scup taken from Rhode Island waters. Mercury is a widespread and toxic environmental contaminant that adversely affects human health. Exposure occurs mainly through the consumption of contaminated fish.

The purpose of the study is to examine mercury contamination in scup (porgies), which supports an important recreational fishery in Rhode Island waters.

The objectives are:

  • Analyze mercury concentrations in scup as a function of body size in order to assess bioaccumulation patterns.
  • Evaluate scup mercury levels relative to the threshold values established by the U.S. FDA and Environmental Proection Agency and compare these results to health risks associated with consuming other finfish.
  • Work collaboratively with the RIDOH to develop meaningful consumption advisories for Rhode Island residents, including recreational anglers.

Acquiring such data will support public health risk assessments and risk management decisions related to the issuance of fish consumption advisories.

Scup supports a lucrative recreational fishery in Rhode Island, with a 2011 landing equal to 326,302 kg, which represents 23% of the total recreational catch in the state. Moreover, Dr. Taylor recently disseminated a food frequency questionaire to Rhode Island recreational anglers to obtain more accurate estimates of fish eating habits of the state’s residents. Of the 183 responses received, 25.8% of the individuals reported eating scup in the summer of 2012. Scup may therefore represent an important source of mercury for fish-consuming individuals, given the prominence of this species as a dietary resource in Rhode Island.

During the course of this study, Dr. Taylor will work with Rhode Island DEM, Rhode Island Dept. of Health, and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. The final report will be due in January, 2014.

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