The Bowhead whale as a potential indicator species for monitoring the health of the western Arctic/Bering Sea ecosystem using blubber, histology, metal and mineral indices

Updated 2001-01-19

I. Objectives: I.1. To determine the normal range of values (natural variability due to time of year, age, gender) for basic nutritional and health parameters (blubber characteristics, essential and non-essential elements, structure of basic tissues) in the bowhead whale. a. Blubber thickness (depth and girth), chemical composition (lipids, water, calories), and tissue structure (light microscopy and special stains) will be assessed. b. Essential and non-essential elements (heavy metals) will be measured in liver and kidney. c. Tissue structure (light microscopy) characteristics obviously related to nutritional status in liver (glycogen, lipid and lipofuscin stores), pancreas (zymogen granules), and intestine (mucosal microvilli) and any evidence of inactivity/atrophy will be examined. d. Documentation of "normal" structure of basic tissues and evaluation for evidence of disease will also be conducted. I.2. Using data from Objective 1 to identify the parameters most important in assaying the health status of other mysticetes residing in the Bering Sea or Western Arctic that are harvested or stranded. I.3. Using data from Objective 1 to help determine the role of the bowhead whale as an indicator of ecosystem health and development of an optimized protocol for assessing mysticete health for the Bering Sea and Western Arctic, and other regions.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Status
Ongoing
Project time span
1998 -
Data collection
not specified
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
Todd M. O'Hara
Address
Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, P.O. Box 69, Barrow, AK 99723 USA
Phone
+1 907 852 0350
Fax
+1 907 852 0351
Email
su.ka.epols-htron.oc@arahot
Other project contacts
John Blake, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, (IAB-UAF), Fairbanks, AK Gerald Bratton, Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas Michael Castellini, Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks, (IMS-UAF), Fairbanks, AK Teri Rowles, Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program Coordinator, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD John Stein (delegated to Peggy Krahn), Environmental Conservation Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle WA.

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Heavy metals
Other metals/elements
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.

1. Liver and kidney analyzed for Zn, Co, Ag, Cu, Mg, Pb, Mo, Mn, A, & Se 2. Blubber analyzed for organochlorines (OCs),including dioxin-like chlorobiphenyls (CBs), DDT and DDT metabolites (e.g., DDEs, DDDs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) by a rapid high-performance liquid chromatography photodiode array (HPLC/PDA). 3. Blubber analyzed for chemical composition (i.e., percent lipid, water, etc); lipid content and proportions of lipid classes, including wax esters, triglycerides, free fatty acids, cholesterol and phospholipids analyzed using thin-layer chromatography with flame ionization detection (TLC-FID). 4. Light microscopy, including routine histological evaluation of tissues and special stains; an intensive assessment of blubber microscopic anatomy.

Geography

Regions studied
Alaska
Alaska, North Slope
Arctic Ocean
Bering Sea
Stations or areas where observations are made

Bowhead whales subsistence-harvested at Barrow, Alaska

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
yes-partly
Data centres
Marine TDC
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
Microscopic slides and digital images at the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. OC data at Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle WA. Metals data at Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas.
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Castellini, MA. 2000. History of polar whaling: insights into the physiology of the great whales. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. In Press. Castellini, M., Fadely, B., Castellini, J. and T. Mau. 1999. The role of blubber in assessing body condition. Abstract. 13th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Mau, T.L., Castellini, J.M., Fadely, B.S., and Castellini, M.A. Biochemical Composition of Whale and Seal Blubber. Poster presented at the Experimental Biology Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 17-21, 1999. Mau, T.L., Castellini, M.A. and O'Hara, T.M. Seasonal Distribution of Energy Stores in the Bowhead Whale. Poster presented at the Biennial Conference of Marine Mammals, Maui, HI, Nov 27-Dec 3, 1999. O'Hara, T.A., Hoekstra, P.F., Beckman, K.E., Krahn, M.M, Blake, J.E., and D.C.G. Muir: Persistent organic pollutants in bowhead whales and northern fur seals of Alaska. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic: Human Health and Environmental Concerns (Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program), Rovaniemi, Finland, January 19, 2000. Extended abstract in press. Rosa, C., J.E. Blake, T.M. O'Hara, G.R. Bratton, M.M. Krahn. 2000. The bowhead whale as a potential indicator species for monitoring the health of the western Arctic/Bering sea ecosystem using blubber, histology and contaminant indices. at the Atlantic Coast Contaminants Workshop, June 22-26, 2000 in Bar Harbor, Maine
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Yes
Specimen banking information

Some samples banked by the Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Project (AMMTAP)

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.

Blubber chemical composition and OC analysis at Environmental Conservation Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle WA. Blubber samples analyzed for both lipid content and proportions of lipid classes, including wax esters, triglycerides, free fatty acids, cholesterol and phospholipids, using thin-layer chromatography with flame ionization detection (TLC-FID) (Shantha 1992). Metals analysis via atomic absorption spectophotometry (AAS) at Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas

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

Environmental Conservation Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle WA Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
No
Indigenous AND traditional knowledge used in this project

Bowhead whales subsistence-harvested at Barrow, Alaska

Other related projects

Human and chemical ecology of Arctic pathways by marine pollutants

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