Mercury Accumulation in Caribbean sharks and rays: implications for human health and elasmobranch conservation

Photo credit: MarAlliance  

Grantee MarAlliance
Location Belize, Honduras, and Panama
Grant Amount 25,000
Duration One year
Type of Grant Small

While naturally occurring, mercury concentrations in the environment have increased significantly due to human activity, leading sharks and other top-of-the-food-chain predators to accumulate high levels in their muscle tissue. In many Caribbean countries, sharks and rays are utilized as a source of protein; however, removing elasmobranchs from the area for food not only represents an important human health concern due to potentially high mercury levels, but also an ecosystem stressor as sharks and rays play key roles in maintaining healthy communities. The goal of this project is to measure mercury concentrations in muscle tissue from a number of elasmobranchs over a range of sizes caught locally in Belize, Honduras, and Panama to identify which species are safe for human consumption and which should be avoided. By empowering local citizens with information on species caught in their own backyard, this project will promote shark and ray conservation by coupling human health and safe seafood choices to reduce targeted elasmobranch fishing and bycatch.