Studies have shown that killer whales are some of the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.
Killer whales are apex (top) predators in the ocean’s food web and consequently receive high contaminant loads from their prey.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Cetaceans
Accumulation up the food web
Toxins increase with age
Passing along generations
The transfer of pollutants from female to calf has also been observed in other species of cetaceans. Using earwax from a stranded six-month-old blue whale calf, Trumble et al. found that the calf had already accumulated approximately 20% of the total amount of POPs a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) would have in its body over an entire lifetime20. They suggested that for this to have occurred, a significant amount of pollutants must be passed from female to calf within the first twelve months of life. Desforges et al. found that female beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in the St. Lawrence pass along a larger concentration of POPs to their offspring, not just through lactation21, but also via transplacental transfer 22. This study found that female belugas transferred 11.4% of the PCBs and 11.1% of the PBDEs within their blubber to their fetuses in the womb.
More contaminants near-shore
Noe even the Arctic is safe from pollutants
The toxic problem with food scarcity
Oil Spills and Cetaceans
Regulating Contaminants in Canada
What can you do to help?
- Use your consumer power to demand PBDE-free products. Choose furniture, carpet and electronic products that do not use these hazardous chemicals.
- Reduce the use of hazardous chemicals by choosing household cleaners, pesticides and fertilizers, which are not toxic to your surroundings. If chemicals are toxic to the oceans, they are also a danger to you and your family. Support companies that make clean products and consume less pesticide-dependent foods, thereby reducing the amount of pesticides used.
- Compost your household, kitchen and yard wastes, which makes an excellent fertilizer.
- Never burn treated wood and trash. This releases POPs into the environment.
- Recycle all electronic equipment responsibly.
- Never pour any oil or other chemicals onto the ground or into drains. Many of these chemicals make their way to the ocean. Even if you live far from the ocean, the chemicals from your area can be transported to the ocean via local streams and rivers. Maintain your vehicles to prevent oil from leaking onto the road, which can go down drains and end up in the ocean.
- Report all spills. All pollution and potential spills should be reported to the Canadian Coast Guard at 1-800-889-8852 (Pacific Division) or on Marine Channel 16. When reporting a spill please provide: your name, telephone number, location of the spill, quantity of the spill, type of product spilled and on scene weather.
- Recycle all oil and chemicals. Most communities have recycling centres that will accept used oil and other chemicals for recycling.
- Your voice counts. Citizens can also petition their governments to restrict the emission / dumping of toxic contaminants into the environment.
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