A comparison of fish tissue mercury concentrations from homogenized fillet and nonlethal biopsy plugs

Alexis Knight , Satyendra P. Bhavsar , Brian A. Branfireun , Peter Drouin , Ram Prashad , Steve Petro , Moustapha Oke


Received September 28, 2018,Revised , Accepted December 07, 2018, Available online December 18, 2018

Volume 31,2019,Pages 137-145

The use of biopsy plugs to sample fish muscle tissue for mercury analyses is a viable alternative to lethal sampling; however, the practice has yet to be widely implemented in routine monitoring due to concerns about variability of mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissues. Here we examine distribution of mercury in fillets of four fish species (Walleye, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass and Lake Trout), suitability of left/right side of fillet for biopsy sampling, and appropriateness of re-using a biopsy punch. The results showed that average mercury concentrations in left and right fillets of fish are similar. Mercury concentrations in biopsy plug samples, taken from the anterior dorsal area of the fish fillet, were statistically equivalent to the mercury concentrations in homogenized fillets. There was no discernible cross contamination between samples when a biopsy punch was reused after washing in hot soapy water, and as such, biopsy punches can be recycled during sampling to reduce the sampling cost. If a tissue mass collected from a specific site on the fillet is insufficient, then we suggest sampling corresponding locations on the other fillet rather than sampling two adjacent sites on one fillet to obtain more tissue. The results presented here can improve the accuracy of fillet biopsy plug sampling, minimize fish mortality for mercury monitoring, and reduce labor and material costs in monitoring programs.

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