Minnesota's Fish, Like Its Women & Children: 'All Above Average' - Mercury Rising


Walleye Pike, an ice fishing catch. Image credit:Bringley's Harbor Resort, Leech Lake MN

I've long wondered why fishermen/women do not get more upset over coal burning, which is the major source of mercury contaminating US freshwater fish. So far, talk radio jocks and ads for Clean Coal have been more masterful at risk communication than scientists. Anyway, it has gotten so bad up in Minnesota, hey, that your best eatin' fish are all above average - in mercury content.Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) scientists looked at 25 years worth of mercury data from samples taken in 845 Minnesota lakes. The findings include a recent, gradual upward trend in mercury contamination of fish like the walleyed pike (as pictured). Results were published in Environmental Science & Technology.

The Star-Tribune reports, in their story Mercury in walleye, northern pike keeps rising, MPCA finds, that:

The concentration of mercury in walleye and northern pike has shown an unexpected long-term rise in lakes throughout Minnesota, and scientists believe the problem has global causes and consequences.
The increases found to have occurred in recent years do not seem to be correlated with local mercury pollution sources:
MPCA scientist Bruce Monson, who conducted the analysis, said the source of the mercury probably isn't local because the trend is statewide. Scientists also have found an increase in mercury concentrations in coho and chinook salmon from Lake Ontario from 1999 through 2003.
Points to ponder the next time you're out fishing:

Walleye is one of the best eating fish around - so why aren't fishing clubs and the tourist industry seriously upset with this trend?
If you happen to be from God's Country then you know what I'm talking about when I say there's no better eating fish than a walleyed pike. The chance to catch some good walleye is one of the biggest reasons people will put up with living in a place like Minnesota, where you must wear a life preserver at all times...in case the mosquitoes drop you over open water. And, it's also one of the big reasons tourists from neighboring states will come spend their money.

So, where is the outrage, I ask?

A win win solution is possible.
Limiting coal-plant mercury emissions to keep fish from poisoning fisherfolk and their families protects the climate; protecting the climate by controlling coal emissions happens to control the mercury deposition rate. Either way works, if it's done globally.

It has to start locally, though.
It's convenient to scapegoat Asia, yes.

The cause is probably either increased global mercury emissions by sources outside the United States, such as China or India, or factors associated with climate change, or both, Monson said. Global mercury emissions increased between 1990 and 1995, largely because of an increase in electricity produced by coal-fired power plants in Asia.
I haven't reviewed the literature nyself, to see if that inference is based on data or a deductive hunch.

Let's don't forget to blame Poland, though. See: Extreme Coal - Poland's 96% Dependency Could Be World Record ...

Utah's a lot closer than Poland and they got it bad too. See: Coal Released Mercury Ruins Fishing and Duck Hunting

Missouri's even closer; and they get up to 85% of their electricity from coal. See: US State Of Missouri Needs Some Renewable Energy Tips

What about all the coal burning in the Dakotas and Iowa and Indiana and Illinois and Minnesota and Wisconsin?

More coal-fired tales from our archives.
Coal Released Mercury Ruins Fishing and Duck Hunting
Sushigate: Jeremy Piven Leaves Show Due to Fishy Mercury Poisoning ...
One in Every Four New Yorkers Has Elevated Blood Mercury Levels ...
East Coast Women Love to Eat Mercury

Tags: Coal | Minnesota

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