Most fish and shellfish already have low levels of mercury within them naturally. Generally, the higher up a fish is in the food chain, the more mercury it has in its tissue, because algae absorb small amounts of mercury in the sea water, and then fish eat large amounts of algae, and bigger fish eat large amounts of those fish, and so on. This means that whales, swordfish, pelicans, and eagles usually have a high level of mercury in their tissue, which is natural for them.
That doesn’t mean it’s harmless, however. Both in environments polluted by excess mercury and environments with the normal levels, recent studies have shown that the buildup of mercury in higher-order fish, mammals, and birds leads to diminished reproductive success (and according to at least one researcher, may cause homosexuality in birds).
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