Killer whales are at risk of extinction off industrialized regions of Europe from poisonous chemicals banned decades ago that are still leaching into the seas, scientists said on Thursday.
(From Reuters/ by Alister Doyle) — The study, which took samples from 1,000 killer whales, dolphins and porpoises, urged tougher rules for disposal of toxic man-made PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) that were used in paints, electrical equipment and construction until the 1980s.
“It’s really looking bleak … We think there is a very high extinction risk for killer whales as a species in industrialized regions of Europe,” lead author Paul Jepson of the Zoological Society of London, told a telephone news conference.
The study, by scientists in Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia and Britain, said concentrations of PCBs in the blubber of killer whales off Europe, as well as in striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, were among the highest recorded worldwide.
Levels were lower in harbor porpoises, the fourth species covered by the study in the journal Scientific Reports.
Washed into rivers from unsealed storage sites, PCBs contaminate the seabed where they are eaten by creatures such as mussels or crabs that in turn get consumed by fish that are food for long-lived predators such as killer whales.
Read the full article here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-environment-killerwhales-idUSKCN0US1QP20160114