Ocean Alliance believes that the greatest threat facing whales (& ultimately humanity) is ocean pollution. Based on that premise, OA has been focusing its efforts for the last 15 years looking at the concentrations and effects of pollutants in the world’s oceans. Ocean Alliance’s five-year global study, the Voyage of the Odyssey, collected the first ever baseline data on ocean pollution using sperm whales as an indicator species. This study continues to bear fruit, with the publication of a new paper in the Marine Pollution Bulletin by our science partners at the Wise Laboratory. The study looks at levels of lead in skin biopsies from sperm whales around the globe. Here is the abstract:
Lead (Pb) is an oceanic pollutant of global concern. Anthropogenic activities are increasing oceanic levels, but to an unknown extent. The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) has a global distribution and high trophic level. The aim of this study was to establish a global baseline of oceanic Pb concentrations using free-ranging sperm whales as an indicator species. Skin biopsies (n = 337) were collected during the voyage of the Odyssey (2000–2005) from 17 regions considering gender and age. Pb was detectable in 315 samples with a global mean of 1.6 ug/g ww ranging from 0.1 to 129.6 ug/g ww. Papua New Guinea, Bahamas and Australia had the highest regional mean with 6.1, 3.4, and 3.1 ug/g ww, respectively. Pb concentrations were not significantly different between sex and age in males. This is the first global toxicological dataset for Pb in a marine mammal and confirms Pb is widely distributed with hotspots in some regions.