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Northern Territory: Tackling mercury in barramundi

Northern Territory: Tackling mercury in barramundi


Indigenous rangers testing fish samples. Photos Fisheries Research, Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries.

AIMS scientists in Darwin, the Northern Territory Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and a team of indigenous rangers are set to investigate the reasons why there are varying levels of naturally-occurring mercury in barramundi in the North.

“It seems that fish moving out over flood plains from the main channels of northern river estuaries during the wet season are more exposed to bio-accumulating mercury than their cousins toward estuary mouths and out in coastal waters,” said AIMS scientist, Dr Edward Butler.

To understand if this is the case, the joint team is embarking on a three-year collaborative research project to investigate these mercury levels in the barramundi in the region. The first part of the research will look into the link between elevated mercury levels in the fish and their habitats. This will include studies examining the environmental and dietary pathways by which the barramundi accumulate mercury.

Further, the researchers will analyse the lifestyles of barramundi, to learn more about how certain fish are predisposed to take up the toxic, heavy metal.

The study will take place in the Daly, Mary, McArthur and Liverpool Rivers.