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Fish, Fishing, and Risk to Eco-Receptors and Humans in Coastal New Jersey

Investigators
Burger, Joanna
Institutions
Rutgers University
Start date
2009
End date
2014
Objective
GOALS: The goal of this research is to examine toxic chemicals in fish, and the fate and effects of these chemicals in eco-receptors and humans. To understand the potential risk to consumers of fish and shellfish, it is essential to understand fishing rates, consumption rates, the reasons why people fish, and contaminant levels in those fish or other resources. Few scientists examine the whole process from how and why people fish, through understanding of the marine ecosystem, to contaminants in fish and other marine resources (e.g. shellfish, birds), to risk assessment and risk management.

This proposal has elements of the whole process, and fits nicely into the mission of NJAES because these issues relate directly to commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, and food safety. The earlier phases of this study have included collaborations with the public, with the Jersey Coast Angler's Association, with the Jersey Shore Shark Association, and with NJ DEP (through fish collections on their trawls). Only with the collaboration among these people can we conduct research that is both scientifically sound and directly responsive to the needs of the public to understand the risks from fish consumption.

OBJECTIVES:

  1. Continue to work with the NJ angler associations and the public to provide information on contaminants that allows appropriate risk balancing.
  2. Examine contaminant levels in fish and birds to monitor changes that are potentially important for the marine ecosystem and human health
  3. Examine fishing behavior and consumption patterns
OUTPUTS:
  1. Publications to the scientific community
  2. Meetings and communication tools for the general public
  3. Brochures for the general public
  4. Meetings and information for regulators and state agencies
More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Most states are facing an environmental situation in which contaminants are increasing, human populations are increasing, habitat for wildlife is decreasing, and human and ecological health risk is increasing. This project will examine the risk to eco-receptors and humans from contaminants in fish. This entails understanding how contaminants (mercury, lead, cadmium) move through the food chain to reach top level predators (birds, fish, humans), and what the risk is. For humans, it also involves understanding consumption patterns and fishing behavior. We will collect fish and other biota to examine levels of heavy metals, interview people to determine their fishing behavior and consumption patterns, and determin risk to people and other top level predators. People cannot make informed decisions about what species of fish to eat unless they understand the levels of contaminants in those foods, and how mercury bioaccumulates in different species of fish. Armed with such information people can choose what fish to eat, given their own status (male, female, pregnant, age), and their risk levels.

APPROACH:
METHODS: 1.Continue to monitor population dynamics and habitat utilization of colonial birds in Barnegat Bay (visits to all colonies 6-10 times/year) to count the number of birds and determine reproductive success
2. Collect bird eggs and feather for analysis of heavy metals
3. Collect marine fish for chemical analysis from recreational fishermen and from NJ DEP trawls (only to obtain smaller fish for analysis than are allowed by fishing laws) (all collecting with appropriate permits).
4. Analyze lead, mercury, arsenic, selenium, chromium and other heavy metals in bird and fish tissue.
5. Collect data on fishing and why people fish, through interviews and surveys approved by the IRB.
6. Analyze the data on population dynamics, heavy metals, and fishing behavior to provide an integrated approach to understanding the risk trade-offs between different species of fish, and to integrate these understandings with the social/cultural aspects of fishing.

WORK PLAN TASK 1. Continue to implement sampling of birds and reproductive success in colonies - All five years
2. Year-end analysis of habitat selection, population sizes and reproductive success - All five years
3. Final examination of 5 year colony trends- Only in year five
4. Collection of fish from recreational fishermen - All five years
5. Collection of fish from NJDEP trawls - All five years
6. Yearly analysis of heavy metal levels in fish - All five years
7. Yearly report of contaminant levels to fishermen in clubs and in their Newsletters - All five years
8. Five Year analysis of trends in contaminant levels in fish- Only year five
9. Publication of results of colony dynamics, contaminant levels in birds, and contaminant levels in fish- Year three and five
10. Interviewing recreational fishermen Yearly analysis of interview data, relevant publication in scientific journals - All five years
11. Periodic reviews of interview data for temporal trends - All five years X
12. Reporting of fishing and consumption patterns to fishing groups, WIC, and the public- Year five
13. Report results at regional, national, and international scientific meetings for all four aspects (Colony dynamics, contaminants in birds, contaminants in fish, fishing behavior and consumption patterns- Last three years
14. Meet with stakeholders to determine future directions and other desired analyses - All five years

INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL COOPERATION:
1. NJDEP - Allowing us to go on their trawls to collect small fish to allow us to examine mercury and other contaminants as a function of size.
2. NJ Fishing Associations (have provided money for analysis over the last 4 years) a. Jersey Coast Angler's Association b. New Jersey Shore Shark Association
3. EOHSI and NIEHS Center of Excellence - involved in partial funding of chemical analysis.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NJ17102
Accession number
175541
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Natural Toxins