ECOTOXICOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES IN MARINE MAMMALOGY: RESEARCH PRINCIPLES AND GOALS FOR A CONSERVATION POLICY1

Authors


  • 1

    This paper is based on a presentation at Plenary Session II of the Vancouver meetings of the Society: “Science and Marine Mammal Conservation”. Other papers from this session will be published in future issues of Marine Mammal Science. Publication costs have been provided by grants to the Society from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NOAA/NMFS) and the Marine Mammal Commission. The convener, G. Carleton Ray, also wishes to acknowledge Dr. Sheila S. Anderson of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, Cambridge, U.K. for her skillful chairing of the session.

Abstract

In integrating ecotoxicology and marine mammalogy two principal themes are conceivable: (1) the impact of contaminants on marine mammals and (2) the feasibility of monitoring marine pollution with marine mammals. Monitoring should be an alert procedure, carried out with a sensitive sensor. Uncertainties in interpreting analyses and the low susceptibility of marine mammals to short-term changes in pollution, make them inappropriate for pollution monitoring at present.

To answer the question whether pollutants affect marine mammals, the occurrence of contaminants and the response of the animals to those chemicals have to be assessed. In studying the occurrence of contaminants it is essential that atmospheric and riverine input, geochemical processes, and processes involved with the occurrence of natural compounds are considered. To investigate the mechanisms by which pollutants affect physiological processes the kinetics of contaminants in the animals and their clinical toxicity effects have to be studied. Comparative reference data on physical and chemical blood parameters facilitates checking for hematological disorders, electrolyte imbalance, serum biochemistry and hormonal changes. Following such a concept the retrospective study of pollution effects on marine mammals might be turned into a predictive approach.

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