Bioaccumulation of POPs and toxic elements in small cetaceans along European Atlantic coasts

Graham J. Pierce, Florence Caurant, Robin J. Law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Results on persistent organic and toxic element concentrations in tissues of small cetaceans from five northeast Atlantic European coastal regions in 2001-03 are summarised. PCB concentrations in blubber frequently exceeded the threshold at which effects on reproduction might be expected, notably in harbour porpoises from the southern North Sea (reflecting high concentrations in prey) and common dolphins from France. Concentrations were often higher in males than females, as expected since females transfer lipophilic pollutants to their offspring during pregnancy and lactation. Highest concentrations were recorded in blubber of bottlenose dolphins. The regional distributions of PBDE and HBCD concentrations differed from that of PCBs. Mercury concentrations
in liver were generally below the threshold for toxic effects. Cadmium levels never exceed the threshold for toxic effects and were higher in species feeding more on cephalopods. While strandings data may result in samples biased towards animals in a poor state of health, dangerously high concentrations of PCBs were nonetheless frequently recorded in small cetacean blubber during
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ECS/ASCOBANS/ACCOBAMS Joint Workshop on Chemical Pollution and Marine Mammals
EditorsPeter G.H. Evans
Place of PublicationIsle of Anglesey
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
EventProceedings of the ECS/Ascobans/Accobams Joint Workshop: European Cetacean Society’s 25th Annual Conference - Cádiz, Spain
Duration: 20 Mar 201120 Mar 2011

Publication series

NameECS Special Publication Series
PublisherEuropean Cetacean Society


ConferenceProceedings of the ECS/Ascobans/Accobams Joint Workshop
Internet address

Bibliographical note

The results presented here derive from data collected during the EC-funded BIOCET project (Bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants in small cetaceans in European waters: transport pathways and impact on reproduction, EVK3-CT-2000-00027. As such they represent the work of a large team of project members and collaborators, including: Begoña Santos, Jennifer Learmonth, Jamie Banks, Sarah Bannon, Fiona Read, Gabrielle Stowasser, Jianjun Wang, Lindsay Brown, Bill Edwards (University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK); Emer Rogan, Sinead Murphy (University College, Cork, Ireland); Vincent Ridoux, Paco Bustamante, Virginie Lahaye, Willy Dabin, Olivier Van Canneyt, Laureline Meynier, Jérôme Spitz, Ghislain Dorémus, Cecile Vincent (University of La Rochelle / CRMM, France); Marjan Addink, Chris Smeenk, Manuel García-Hartmann (National Museum of Natural History, Leiden, The Netherlands); Jan Boon, Bart Zegers, Anchelique Mets (Netherlands Institute of Sea Research, The Netherlands); Angel González, Angel Guerra, Maria Teresa Fernandez, Camino Gestal (Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, Vigo, Spain); Alain Zuur (Highland Statistics, UK); Colin Moffat (FRS Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen, UK); Christina Lockyer (Age Dynamics, Denmark); Bob Reid, Tony Patterson (SAC Veterinary Science Division, UK); Alfredo López, Josep Alonso (CEMMA, Spain) and other members of CEMMA; members of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group; Thierry Jauniaux, Jean-Marie Bouquegneau (University of Liège, Belgium); Claude Joiris, Ludo Holsbeek (Free University of Belgium); and Paul Jepson (Institute of Zoology, London, UK).


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