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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Overfishing, Climate Change Linked with Rising Mercury Levels in Fish

Even as mercury levels in the oceans have fallen, levels in some fish—such as tuna, salmon, and swordfish—have increased due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) found that overfishing has caused some fish to switch their prey to species with higher mercury levels. They also found that rising ocean temperatures have led to fish becoming more active and needing more food — and thus ingesting more mercury.

Mercury has been linked with impaired brain development and cognitive abilities and is especially dangerous for fetuses.

Climate change “is not just about what the weather is like in 10 years,” said Dr. Amina Schartup, who led the study while a researcher at John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard Chan School, in an August 7 article in The Atlantic. “It’s also about what’s on your plate in the next five.”

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