David Taylor has been measuring mercury in fish for the past eight years. The associate professor of marine biology at Roger Williams University targets the main types of fish people catch with a rod and reel and take home to eat.
After all, the more fish people catch, the more they tend to eat, and that’s a critical reason to know the mercury levels in the most commonly caught fish.
This summer, with a $12,000 grant from the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Foundation, Taylor has extended his research already underway on mercury levels in scup, a type of fish frequently caught and consumed locally.
“When I began, I focused on striped bass, bluefish, winter and summer flounder, tautog, which is also called blackfish, and black sea bass,” said Taylor. “I’ve done some detailed analysis and gotten a lot of information on those species. The one that was missing from my data set was scup.”
Taylor filled in that gap over the past couple of years with analysis of mercury levels in scup caught in Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound.
The one-year grant from the anglers foundation awarded in June allowed him to expand that research to scup caught in Narragansett Bay. A substantial amount of that research has been done this summer and the findings relayed to the R.I. Department of Health for use in making consumption advisories.
“The amount of mercury in some fish is enough to impair the development of the nervous system,” said Robert Vanderslice, who heads the Healthy Homes and Environment Team at the R.I. Department of Health. “As adults, the development of our nervous system is complete. Young children and developing fetuses are the most sensitive to mercury’s affects. Pregnant women who eat fish can pass this mercury to their developing baby.”
The results of Taylor’s research on mercury levels in scup are based on scup of legal size, a minimum of 10 inches.