Mercury levels of yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) are associated with capture location

Environ Pollut. 2017 Oct;229:87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.05.070. Epub 2017 May 31.


Mercury is a toxic compound to which humans are exposed by consumption of fish. Current fish consumption advisories focus on minimizing the risk posed by the species that are most likely to have high levels of mercury. Less accounted for is the variation within species, and the potential role of the geographic origin of a fish in determining its mercury level. Here we surveyed the mercury levels in 117 yellowfin tuna caught from 12 different locations worldwide. Our results indicated significant variation in yellowfin tuna methylmercury load, with levels that ranged from 0.03 to 0.82 μg/g wet weight across individual fish. Mean mercury levels were only weakly associated with fish size (R2 < 0.1461) or lipid content (R2 < 0.00007) but varied significantly, by a factor of 8, between sites. The results indicate that the geographic origin of fish can govern mercury load, and argue for better traceability of fish to improve the accuracy of exposure risk predictions.

Keywords: Capture location; Global assessment; Mercury; Pollution; Yellowfin tuna.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Humans
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Tuna / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Mercury