Environmental toxins

by Lars Mortensen, National Environmental Research Institute (DMU), University of Århus, Denmark

Environmental Toxins in Disko Bay

In the past two weeks I have been stationed in the Arctic Station to obtain tissue samples from the Ringed Seals (Phoca hispida) being hunted in this area. This work is a part of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) being conducted by the National Environmental Research Institute (NERI) of Denmark, to investigate the contaminant levels of environmental toxins in the Ringed Seals and other species around the Disko Bay area.

Since environmental toxins accumulate up though the food web, toxins in species of the Arctic region is a   particular problem, not because the animals here are more polluted than in other regions of the world, on the contrary, they are more clean. But opposed to other parts of the world, the top predators of the sea, such as whales and seals, serve as food for the humans living there.  Humans living in the Arctic region is therefore exposed to greater levels of environmental toxins than in other parts of the world through their food.

Ringed seal (Phoca hispida)

To monitor the contaminant levels around Disko, NERI is sending personnel to sample ringed seals and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius), which I am doing now, every second year. In cooperation with the local hunters, the seals are sampled before they are flensed. The samples are then analysed in Denmark for contents of mercury,  DDT, PCB and other environmental toxins.

A local hunter flensing a ringed seal in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland. Photo: L. Mortensen

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