Over the last century anthropogenic activities have rapidly increased the influx of metals and metalloids entering the marine environment, which can bioaccumulate and biomagnify in marine top consumers. This may elicit sublethal effects on target organisms, having broad implications for human seafood consumers. We provide the first assessment of metal (Cd, Pb, Cr, Mn, Co, Cu, Zn, As, Ag, and THg) and metalloid (As) concentrations in the muscle tissue of coastal sharks from The Bahamas. A total of 36 individual sharks from six species were evaluated, spanning two regions/study areas, with a focus on the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi), and to a lesser extent the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). This is due their high relative abundance and ecological significance throughout coastal Bahamian and regional ecosystems. Caribbean reef sharks exhibited some of the highest metal concentrations compared to five other species, and peaks in the concentrations of Pb, Cr, Cu were observed as individuals reached sexual maturity. Observations were attributed to foraging on larger, more piscivorous prey, high longevity, as well a potential slowing rate of growth. We observed correlations between some metals, which are challenging to interpret but may be attributed to trophic level and ambient metal conditions. Our results provide the first account of metal concentrations in Bahamian sharks, suggesting individuals exhibit high concentrations which may potentially cause sublethal effects. Finally, these findings underscore the potential toxicity of shark meat and have significant implications for human consumers.
Referenced in BioNews Article https://dcnanature.org/sharks-toxins/