Killer Whales Being Poisoned by Eating PCB Tainted Salmon
A new study of orca whales living off the coast of British Columbia has revealed their dwindling populations are being negatively affected by eating salmon
that is tainted with PCBs
. Although PCB use has been largely banned in the United States since 1977, this persistent organic pollutant is still present in our environment. Salmon are the staple of killer whale's diet, and even though the amount of PCBs in chinook salmon is relatively low, even small amounts pose a significant risk to the whales.
In fact, the whales have become the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.
Peter Ross, supervising researcher on the study published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, explains:
Killer whales are long-lived, top-of-the-food-chain animals. They have small, isolated populations. They have very large habitat needs. If we're trying to protect 84 animals in an area where we've got 8.5 million people, we've got a bit of work to do.
One out of every 2000 Pacific orca whales have dangerous levels of pollutants that damage their immune systems, affect reproduction, and lead to developmental abnormalities.
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Posted by Jennifer Lance at January 21, 2009 12:22 AM