Restrictions on the release of PCBs into the environment began in the early 1970s, resulting in reduced PCB concentrations in Lake Michigan bloaters (Coregonus hoyi). However, since 1980, PCB concentrations in bloater have declined only slightly. The bloater population also increased 40-fold during 1970 through 1984, resulting in a diet shift and a density-dependent decline in growth. Our goal was to determine how these changes in diet and growth may have affected PCB accumulation in Lake Michigan bloater. We evaluated the consequences of these two changes on bloater PCB concentrations by developing a bioenergetics-based PCB bioaccumulation model. Bloater PCB concentrations increased little when we increased the amount of Diporeia hoyi, the most contaminated prey in the bloater diet. By comparing constant growth (similar to those of the 1970s) to observed decline in growth rates, we found that lower growth rates during the 1980s placed older, more contaminated bloaters in the size range most vulnerable to predators and in the size range sampled by PCB monitoring programs. Bloater PCB concentration trends may be influenced by the sampling methodology of the United States Geological Survey. If fish PCB trends are to be used as an indicator of system-level PCB trends, sampling should include a representative sample of fish of known age from the population.
Additional publication details
Modeling changes in growth and diet on polychlorinated biphenyl bioaccumulation in Coregonus hoyi