Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Mercury levels in Short-tailed Shearwaters

Yutaka Watanuki (Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences, Hokkaido University, Hokodate, Japan) and colleagues have written in in the Journal of Ornithology on mercury levels in Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“We measured mercury concentrations ([Hg]) and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ15N) in the primary feathers of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris) that were tracked year-round.  The [Hg] were highest in 14 birds that used the Okhotsk and northern Japan Seas during the non-breeding period (2.5 ± 1.4 μg/g), lowest in nine birds that used the eastern Bering Sea (0.8 ± 0.2 μg/g), and intermediate in five birds that used both regions (1.0 ± 0.5 μg/g), with no effects of δ15N.  The results illustrate that samples from seabirds can provide a useful means of monitoring pollution at a large spatial scale.”

Short-tailed Shearwater, photograph by Mark Carey 


Watanuki, Y., Yamamoto, T., Yamashita, A., Ishii, C., Ikenaka, Y., Nakayama, S.M.M., Ishizuka, M., Suzuki, Y., Niizuma, Y., Meathrel, C.E. & Phillips, R.A. 2015.  Mercury concentrations in primary feathers reflect pollutant exposure in discrete non-breeding grounds used by Short-tailed Shearwaters. Journal of Ornithology DOI .10.1007/s10336-015-1205-6.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 31 March 2015