What's killing the killer whales?

Experts from the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) discussed the results of a 25-year long study into the causes of whale and dolphin strandings.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are known to bioaccumulate in food webs and are potentially toxic to birds, fish and mammals. Although the impact of POPs on whales and dolphins remains largely unknown, a recent study led by ZSL scientists showed that very high PCB concentrations still occur in the blubber of several dolphin species across Europe.

This meeting will review long-term studies to examine trends in POP concentrations in dolphins and porpoises in UK and European waters, and our latest study will show how very high exposure to PCBs is linked to declining dolphin populations in the NE Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. The need for further mitigation of PCBs at both national (UK) and international (EU) level will also be discussed. If PCBs really are so persistent and toxic, what can we do to limit exposure in marine top predators?

Closing comments by Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor at DEFRA


See full talk abstracts: PDF icon Abstracts - What's killing the killer whales - 9 Feb (383.41 KB)




Robin Law, Emeritus Research Fellow, Cefas, Lowestoft
Temporal trend monitoring for persistent organic pollutants in UK marine mammals

Paul Jepson, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
Toxic legacy? PCB pollution still impacts populations of orcas and other dolphins in European waters.

Richard Moxon, Defra EU Marine and International Directorate
Contaminants in the marine environment - a Defra perspective

Chaired by Rob Deaville, Zoological Society of London



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