Manipulation of growth to reduce mercury concentrations in sport fish on a whole-system scale

Jesse M. Lepak, Kristoph Dietrich Kinzli, Eric R. Fetherman, William M. Pate, Adam G. Hansen, Eric I. Gardunio, C. Nathan Cathcart, William L. Stacy, Zachary E. Underwood, Mandi M. Brandt, Christopher A. Myrick, Brett M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Altering food web structure has been shown to influence mercury (Hg) concentrations in sport fish. Here, we describe a whole-system manipulation designed to assess the effectiveness of stocking relatively high-quality, low-Hg prey (rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) as a means of increasing northern pike (Esox lucius) growth to reduce Hg concentrations. A replicated pond experiment served as a reference for the lake experiment and provided information to parameterize bioenergetics simulations. Results indicate that stocking relatively high-quality, low-Hg prey is a rapid and effective method to reduce sport fish Hg concentrations by up to 50% through an increase in individual northern pike biomass. Large northern pike, the fish that tend to be the most contaminated, were affected most by the manipulation. The observed declines in northern pike Hg concentrations indicate that stocking might be used to reduce Hg concentrations in sport fish prior to harvest. However, after 1 year, northern pike Hg concentrations rebounded, suggesting that reductions would be temporary without continuous stocking. Thus, perhaps the most effective method of perpetually reducing sport fish Hg concentrations would be to manage for the development of a naturally reproducing forage fish population with relatively high energy content and low Hg concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-135
Number of pages14
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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