Environmental Science and Technology
Mercury Hg, compositing/pooling, fish, monitoring, advisories, sensitive population
Monitoring mercury levels in fish can be costly because variation by space, time, and fish type/size needs to be captured. Here, we explored if compositing fish samples to decrease analytical costs would reduce the effectiveness of the monitoring objectives. Six compositing methods were evaluated by applying them to an existing extensive dataset and examining their performance in reproducing the fish consumption advisories and temporal trends. The methods resulted in varying amount (average 34-72%) of reductions in samples, but all (except one) reproduced advisories very well (96-97% of the advisories did not change or were one category more restrictive compared to analysis of individual samples). Similarly, the methods performed reasonably well in recreating temporal trends, especially when longer-term and frequent measurements were considered. The results indicate that compositing samples within 5 cm fish size bins or retaining the largest/smallest individuals and compositing in-between samples in batches of 5 with decreasing fish size would be the best approaches. Based on the literature, the findings from this study are applicable to fillet, muscle plug and whole fish mercury monitoring studies. Overall, compositing fish samples for mercury monitoring could result in a substantial savings (approximately 60% of the analytical cost) and should be considered in fish mercury monitoring, especially in long-term programs or when study cost is a concern.
Drouillard, Ken G.; Gandhi, Nilima; Bhavsar, Satyendra P.; Gewurtz, Sarah B.; Arhonditsis, George B.; and Petro, Steve. (2016). Is it appropriate to composite fish samples for mercury trend monitoring and consumption advisories?. Environmental Science and Technology.