Concentrations and patterns of persistent organochlorine contaminants in beluga whale blubber.

Updated 2001-03-16

White whale (Delphinapterus leucas) blubber samples from three of the five different Alaskan stocks - Cook Inlet (n = 20), Eastern Chukchi Sea (n = 19) and Eastern Beaufort Sea (n = 2) - were analyzed for levels and patterns of chemical contaminants. Blubber of these whales contained sum PCBs, sum DDTs, sum chlordanes, HCB, dieldrin, mirex, *toxaphene and *HCH, generally in concentration ranges similar to those found in white whales from the Canadian Arctic and lower than those in white whales from the highly contaminated St. Lawrence River. The males of the Cook Inlet and Eastern Chukchi Sea stocks had higher mean concentrations of all contaminant groups than did the females of the same stock, a result attributable to the transfer of these organochlorine contaminants (OCs) from the mother to the calf during pregnancy and during lactation following birth. Principal components analysis of patterns of contaminants present in blubber showed that Cook Inlet stock appeared to have identifiable contaminant patterns that allowed the stock to be distinguished from the others. Our results also showed that blubber from the three Alaskan stocks was a source of contaminant exposure for human subsistence consumers, but the health risks from consumption are currently unknown.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Status
Ongoing
Project time span
1989 - 1997
Data collection
1989 - 1997
Data processing
1995 - 1997
Data reporting
1995 - 1999

Contact information

Contact person
Margaret M. Krahn
Address
Environmental Conservation Division Northwest Fisheries Science Center National Marine Fisheries Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2725 Montlake Boulevard East Seattle, WA 98112 USA.
Phone
+1 206 860 3326
Fax
+1 206 860 3335
Email
vog.aaon@nharK.yggeP
Other project contacts
John E. Stein, Environmental Conservation Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, WA 98112, USA. Telephone: (206) 860-6790; Fax: (206) 860-3335; e-mail: John.E.Stein@noaa.gov. Paul R. Becker, Charleston Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA. Telephone: (843) 762-8503; Fax: (843) 762-8724; e-mail: Paul.Becker@nist.gov. Michele M. Schantz, Analytical Chemistry Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USA. Telephone: (301) 975-3106; Fax: (301) 926-8671; e-mail: michele.schantz@nist.gov. Derek C.G. Muir, National Water Research Institute, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7R 4A6. Telephone: (905) 319-6921; Fax: (905) 336-6430; e-mail: derek.muir@cciw.ca. Todd M. O’Hara, Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, AK, USA. Telephone: (907) 852-0350; Fax: (907) 852-0351; e-mail: tohara@co.north-slope.ak.us. Teri Rowles, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Springs, MD 20910, USA. Telephone: (301) 713-2322; Fax: (301) 713-0376; e-mail: Teri.Rowles@noaa.gov.

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Marine mammals
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

species - White whale (Delphinapterus leucas, beluga) tissue analyzed - blubber Beluga whale (length, age estimate, blubber thichness, blubber sample, liver sample) at all sites

Geography

Regions studied
Alaska
Alaska, North Slope
Beaufort Sea
Chukchi Sea
Other areas
Cook Inlet, Point Lay, Point Hope
Stations or areas where observations are made

Beluga whale (length, age estimate, blubber thichness, blubber sample, liver sample) at all sites Chickaloon River, Upper Cook Inlet, ~ 1 mile upriver (60.9055°N, 150.0143°W) Cook Inlet, Kachemak Bay (59.5833°N, 151.8667°W) Cook Inlet, Susitna River (61.2757°N, 150.5933°W) Cook Inlet, Susitna River mouth (61.2773°N, 150.6117°W) Point Lay (69.0833°N, 163.75°W) Point MacKenzie, Upper Cook Inlet (61.2357°N, 149.9818°W) Upper Cook Inlet (61.2458°N, 150.5933°W) Upper Cook Inlet, Beluga River (61.2057°N, 150.9367°W) Upper Cook Inlet, Big Island, Susitna River flats (61.2900°N, 150.6287°W) Upper Cook Inlet, Susitna River flats, ~3 miles south of Big Island, ~3 miles east of Lewis River(?) (61.2372°N, 150.707°W)

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
yes-all
Data centres
Marine TDC
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
White whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from three Alaskan stocks: concentrations and patterns of persistent organochlorine contaminants in blubber. M.M. Krahn, D.G. Burrows, J.E. Stein, P.R. Becker, M.M. Schantz, D.C.G.Muir, T.M. O’Hara and T. Rowles. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 1(3):239-249
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Yes
Specimen banking information

Samples of white whale blubber were selected for analyses from aliquots of blubber specimens stored under cryogenic conditions in the U.S. National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Protocols for specimen banking and cryogenic preparation of sample aliquots are described in: Becker, P., Mackey, E., Demiralp, R., Schantz, M., Koster, B. and Wise, S. 1997. Concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons and trace elements in marine mammal tissues archived in the U.S. National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank. Chemosphere 34:2067-98.

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

The white whale specimens were originally collected by the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP) in collaboration with Alaskan Native hunters, the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service Western Alaska Field Office, and with the support of the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee. These collections were made following standard AMMTAP protocols described in Becker et al. (1991). Becker, P.R., Wise, S.A., Koster, B.J. and Zeisler, R. 1991. Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project: revised collection protocol. National Institute of Standards and Technology, NISTIR 4529, Gaithersburg, Maryland, 33pp. Blubber samples were analyzed for OCs and percent lipid following standard methods and quality assurance protocols (Krahn et al., 1988; Sloan et al., 1993). Briefly, samples of thawed tissue (1-3g ) were extracted, following addition of internal standards, by maceration with sodium sulfate and methylene chloride. The methylene chloride extract was then filtered through a column of silica gel and alumina and concentrated for further cleanup. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with a size-exclusion column was used to separate lipids and other biogenic material from a fraction containing the OCs. The OC fraction was analyzed by capillary column gas chromatography (GC) equipped with an electron capture detector (ECD). Identification of individual OCs in selected samples was confirmed using GC-mass spectrometry. Krahn, M.M., Moore, L.K., Bogar, R.G., Wigren, C.A., Chan, S.-L. and Brown, D.W. 1988. High-performance liquid chromatographic method for isolating organic contaminants from tissue and sediment extracts. J. Chromatogr. 437:161-75. Sloan, C.A., Adams, N.G., Pearce, R.W., Brown, D.W. and Chan, S.-L. 1993. Northwest Fisheries Science Center Organic Analytical Procedures. pp. 53-96. In: (G.G. Lauenstein and A.Y. Cantillo, ed.) Sampling and analytical methods of the National Status and Trends Program: National Benthic Surveillance and Mussel Watch Projects 1984-1992. NOAA Coastal Monitoring and Bioeffects Assessment Division, Office of Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment, National Ocean Service, Silver Spring, Maryland, 182pp.

QA/QC Information (what QA/QC procedures are implemented, laboratories involvment in QA/QC activities, model verification/validation routines, etc.)

Blubber samples were analyzed for OCs and percent lipid following standard methods and quality assurance protocols (Krahn et al., 1988; Sloan et al., 1993). Quality assurance procedures included analyses of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standard reference materials (NIST SRM 1945), a NIST whale blubber control material, certified calibration standards, method blanks, solvent blanks and replicate samples and analytical results met laboratory criteria. In addition, our laboratory participates in NIST and other Quality Assurance Intercomparison Exercises each year. References: Krahn, M.M., Moore, L.K., Bogar, R.G., Wigren, C.A., Chan, S.-L. and Brown, D.W. 1988. High-performance liquid chromatographic method for isolating organic contaminants from tissue and sediment extracts. J. Chromatogr. 437:161-175. Sloan, C.A., Adams, N.G., Pearce, R.W., Brown, D.W. and Chan, S.-L. 1993. Northwest Fisheries Science Center Organic Analytical Procedures. pp. 53-96. In: G.G. Lauenstein and A.Y. Cantillo (eds.) Sampling and analytical methods of the National Status and Trends Program: National Benthic Surveillance and Mussel Watch Projects 1984-1992. NOAA Coastal Monitoring and Bioeffects Assessment Division, Office of Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment, National Ocean Service, Silver Spring, Maryland. 1993pp.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Yes
Other institutes involved in the project

Charleston Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA. Analytical Chemistry Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USA. National Water Research Institute, 867 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7R 4A6. Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, AK, USA. Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Springs, MD 20910, USA.

Indigenous AND traditional knowledge used in this project

The animals were collected by indigenous subsistence hunters.

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