Mercury Levels Increasing in Nordic Sea Birds Skip to content

Mercury Levels Increasing in Nordic Sea Birds

By Larissa Kyzer

Photo: Golli. Birdwatching in Borgarfjörður eystri, black-legged kittiwake (rita).

A new study shows an increase in mercury levels in Nordic sea birds, RÚV reports. More particularly, higher levels of mercury are found in birds south of Greenland than anywhere else in the North Atlantic.

Biologist Erpur Snær Hansen was part of an international team of 79 scientists who were involved in the study, which used feather samples from migrating seabirds to measure the presence of mercury in the animals’ systems.

“What we’ve found is that there is a big spot south of Greenland,” he explained. “Birds that are there in the winter have much more mercury in them than birds elsewhere.” Erpur Snær says that the mercury is “a blend of both natural and also industrial pollution that then ends up in northern seas and gets trapped in the ice. The ice then melts in the spring and is then carried in the currents that run alongside Greenland…”

At the beginning of October, part of the seabird area in question was declared a protected area under the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.

The findings of the study have further ranging implications, Erpur explained. “[Mercury levels] increase throughout the food chain; the higher up in it you are, the more exposed to it you’ll be…people want to monitor it because it also affects the fish we’re trying to sell abroad.”

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