Chlorinated hydrocarbons in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from southeast Alaskan waters


Peard, J. and J. Calambokidis. 1981. Chlorinated hydrocarbons in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from southeast Alaskan waters. Report to Sea Search, Juneau, AK.


Chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants have been found in the tissues of animals from all parts of the world and these chemicals are now considered ubiquitous in the global ecosystem. Relatively high concentrations of these contaminants have been found in the tissues of marine mammals (Risebrough 1978). This is partly the result of the high level on the food chain many marine mammals occupy, the large blubber layers of these animals that serve as a depository for these fat soluble pollutants, and their feeding in the marine environment which serves as a sink for the long-lived chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants. Chlorinated hydrocarbons have been linked to reproductive problems in several marine mammals including the California sea lion (DeLong et al 1973) and ringed seals (Helle et al 1976a, 1976b).

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) occurs in all oceans of the world. In the Pacific, humpbacks are seasonal migrants found along shallow coastal shelfs. The whales winter in tropical regions such as the Hawaiian Islands, Baja California and the Mariana Islands. They summer in cold temperate areas, from central California north through Alaska, west through the Aleutians, and south to Honshu Island, Japan (U.S. Marine Mammal Commission 1980). Feeding is believed to occur primarily on the summer grounds. We know of no published reports on the concentration of chlorinated hydrocarbons in humpback whales from the north Pacific stock. This paper reports on the levels of chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants in the blubber of two humpback whales stranded in Seymour Canal, southeast Alaska in 1981.

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