Fishes as indicators of untreated sewage contamination in a Mexican coastal lagoon Academic Article uri icon

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  • Lagoons are important nursery habitats for fishes but are often sites of intense human activity including wastewater discharges. The goal of this research was to compare stable nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) isotopes, total mercury (THg) and other metal levels in four selected fish species among sites with different levels of untreated sewage discharge inside Barra de Navidad coastal lagoon in the Mexican Pacific. Three species from sites heavily impacted by sewage showed higher δ15N and δ13C compared to those from non-impacted sites. In addition, the highest concentrations of THg were present in fish of two species (Sciades guatemalensis and Diapterus brevirostris) collected at the two most impacted sites, and exceeded the 0.2μg/g ww threshold believed to be protective of adult and juvenile fish. No individuals of Achirus mazatlanus and Mugil curema exceeded this threshold, and liver somatic index and condition did not distinguish high from low impacted sites for all species. In general, the metal levels differed among species but not sites, and were lower than what has been measured in fishes elsewhere. The study also provides the first information on several fish species for coastal areas of Mexico, suggests that THg and isotopes can distinguish sewage-impacted sites, and can serve as a baseline for future studies.


  • Aguilar-Betancourt, Consuelo M
  • González-Sansón, Gaspar
  • Kidd, Karen
  • Munkittrick, Kelly R
  • Curry, R Allen
  • Kosonoy-Aceves, Daniel
  • Lucano-Ramírez, Gabriela
  • Ruiz-Ramírez, Salvador
  • Flores-Ortega, Juan R

publication date

  • December 2016