While most rivers are getting polluted to the levels that the water and fish from the rivers are becoming unsuitable for human consumption, there is some good news – The latest studies have indicated that the Mercury concentration in the fish in much of continental Arctic region is much less than otherwise thought of. One of the reasons which scientists have been propagating is the demise of the Soviet Union which led to a fall in the level of industrialization. The fish species which was chosen for the study was burbot which is a non migratory fish.
The latest study confirmed that the mercury concentration in the burbot fish is much lower than predicted.
The mercury concentration in the fishes of Arctic region or as a matter of fact in any region depended on a variety of factors which include atmospheric, geological, and biological conditions.
Leandro Castello, an assistant professor of fish and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, said in a statement, “It turns out that the economic decline of the former Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, appears to have been good for the Arctic environment in that part of the world”
Mercury is a key product used in ore processing and mining such as smelting. Under certain specific conditions the mercury can be changed into a chemical which can be absorbed by the living beings through a process known as methylation.
Methyl mercury is a very toxic substance which can cause severe health issues in living beings. Humans are also at risk if they consume fishes which are contaminated with mercury compounds.
The research team discovered that a non migratory fish, the burbot fish which resembles the cod and is found in the Russian Lena and the Mezen rivers were safe to consume. On the other hand Pasvik River fish and those living in the Canadian Mackenzie River were acutely contaminated and unfit for human consumption.
Castello said, “The burbot fish was chosen because they are top predators that integrate many bio-geo-chemical processes in the river watersheds. The fish were collected downstream of the watersheds, so that they would present everything that happened upstream. Good news since the Lena River is one of the largest watersheds in the world”
The heavy industries in the Murmansk region explained the high mercury content in the Pasvik region. However since the demise of the Soviet Union has led to a lowering of industrial activities near the Lena and Mezen rivers and this explained the negligible levels of pollution in these rivers.