Session Title :

Mercury in marine mammals and human health risk

Synopsis :

Marine mammals are at the top of aquatic food web and they can accumulate high mercury concentrations. Consequently, the human populations who consume the meat and organs can be at risk of high exposure to mercury. We will discuss the mercury speciation in the mammals and the associated health risk.

Description :

Mercury is a widespread environmental neurotoxin. In general, human exposure to mercury occurs primarily through the consumption of fish and marine mammals. Marine mammals such as whales, seals and dolphins are consumed by some populations as part of their traditional diet. Marine mammals are at the top of the trophic food web in the aquatic ecosystem and therefore, they can accumulate high mercury due to bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Consequently, the human populations who consume them can potentially be exposed to elevated levels of mercury.

Goals:

To discuss the factors affecting the concentrations and speciation of mercury in marine mammal tissues, particularly, the relationship between mercury and selenium and to study the implications on human health.

Objective:

1. To discuss the state of knowledge on mercury concentrations in different species of marine mammals such as whales, seals and dolphins in different parts of the world.
2. To investigate the effects of mercury speciation, particularly the interactions with selenium, on the bioavailability of mercury in different tissue/organ.
3. To evaluate the mercury exposure levels among different populations that consume marine mammal as part of their traditional diet such as the Inuit and the whale eating population in Japan.
4. To review the epidemiological data on effects of mercury exposure in these populations.
5. Finally, to share experience on public health policy such as dietary advice on whale meat implemented in Faroe Island.

Importance to conferees :

This session will be of great value to conferees who are interested in wildlife biology as well as human health.

The session will provide the latest information on the biology of mercury and selenium in marine mammals and also showcase the risk and benefit of consumption of marine mammal consumption among many populations around the world.