The latest Permian mass extinction, the most devastating biocrisis of the Phanerozoic, has been widely attributed to eruptions of the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province, although evidence of a direct link has been scant to date. Here, we measure mercury (Hg), assumed to reflect shifts in volcanic activity, across the Permian-Triassic boundary in ten marine sections across the Northern Hemisphere. Hg concentration peaks close to the Permian-Triassic boundary suggest coupling of biotic extinction and increased volcanic activity. Additionally, Hg isotopic data for a subset of these sections provide evidence for largely atmospheric rather than terrestrial Hg sources, further linking Hg enrichment to increased volcanic activity. Hg peaks in shallow-water sections were nearly synchronous with the end-Permian extinction horizon, while those in deep-water sections occurred tens of thousands of years before the main extinction, possibly supporting a globally diachronous biotic turnover and protracted mass extinction event.