Contaminants as a Conservation Threat to Marine Mammals

Persistent Organic Pollutants and inorganic elements like mercury are ubiquitous environmental pollutants

Marie Noël; Tanya M. Brown

2021

Scholarcy highlights

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants and inorganic elements like mercury are ubiquitous environmental pollutants
  • As long-lived species, many high trophic level marine mammals bioaccumulate high levels of certain contaminants, and a variety of contaminant-related health effects have been reported in populations around the world
  • Contaminants have been identified as one of the top threats to over 80% of the marine mammal populations globally, including two of Canada’s most endangered cetacean populations, Southern Resident killer whales from the northeastern Pacific, and St Lawrence Estuary beluga whales
  • It is critical that we continue to improve upon our understanding of contaminant sources, their fate, and effects in order to better inform on marine mammal conservation measures
  • The collection of samples from marine mammals poses a number of challenges, over the past few decades novel approaches have been developed that allow for minimally invasive collection of samples
  • There is much to be learned about contaminant-mediated effects in marine mammals at both the individual and population levels
  • There is a need for long-term monitoring programmes that use multidisciplinary approaches to assess regional contaminant trends and effects in marine mammals in the context of other environmental stressors, including climate change

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