[MARMAM] New study on legacy and emerging contaminants in North Atlantic killer whales

Anaïs Remili anaremili at gmail.com
Wed Oct 11 05:13:41 PDT 2023

Dear members of the MARMAM community,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce our recent open-access
publication in *Environmental Science & Technology*: *Varying diet
composition causes striking differences in legacy and emerging contaminant
concentrations in killer whales across the North Atlantic*.

You can find a recap of our main findings aimed at the public, as well as
an infographic recap of the paper, here:

Here is the abstract of the paper:
Lipophilic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) tend to biomagnify in food
chains, resulting in higher concentrations in species such as killer whales
(Orcinus orca) feeding on marine mammals compared to those consuming fish.
Advancements in dietary studies include the use of quantitative fatty acid
signature analysis (QFASA) and the differentiation of feeding habits within
and between populations of North Atlantic (NA) killer whales. This
comprehensive study assessed the concentrations of legacy and emerging POPs
in 162 killer whales from across the NA. We report significantly higher
mean levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides,
and flame retardants in Western NA killer whales compared to eastern NA
conspecifics. Mean ∑PCBs ranged from ~100 mg/kg lipid weight (lw) in the
Western NA (Canadian Arctic, Eastern Canada) to ~50 mg/kg lw in the mid-NA
(Greenland, Iceland), to ~10 mg/kg lw in the Eastern NA (Norway, Faroe
Islands). The observed variations in contaminant levels were strongly
correlated with diet composition across locations (inferred from QFASA),
emphasizing that diet, and not environmental variation in contaminant
concentrations among locations, is crucial in assessing
contaminant-associated health risks in killer whales. These findings
highlight the urgency for implementing enhanced measures to safely dispose
of POP-contaminated waste, prevent further environmental contamination, and
mitigate the release of newer and potentially harmful contaminants.

Please reach out to me if you have questions/comments:
anais.remili at mail.mcgill.ca.

Anais Remili, PhD
Postdoctoral researcher at McGill University
Editor-in-chief of Whale Scientists
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