Many organohalogen compounds (OHCs) are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in appreciable concentrations in marine predators. While production of some POPs has declined or ceased in recent decades, their capacity for global transport and bioaccumulation results in observations of unchanging or increasing concentrations in marine systems. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) have been advocated as an environmental sentinel for contaminants due to their longevity, site fidelity and prey species that often overlap with human consumption. Using archived (1992-2010) samples of livers from Northern sea otters (n?=?50) from Alaska we examine concentrations of chlordanes (CHLs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDTs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and associated metabolites. We found some evidence for declining SPCBs over the two decades, however for most animals concentrations were low compared to toxicological thresholds. Six animals had relatively high concentrations of SPCBs (mean?=?262,000?ng/g lipid weight), SDDTs (mean?=?8,800?ng/g lw), and SPBDEs (mean?=?4,600?ng/g lw), with four of these six animals experiencing hepatic parasitism or hepatitis. In order to assess whether differences in POP concentrations are associated with feeding ecology, we examined stable isotopes of C and N in archived muscle and whisker samples. In general, there were no significant relationships between SPOP concentrations and stable isotope ratios. There were small differences in stable isotope profiles in animals with high POP concentrations, although it was unclear if these differences were due to feeding ecology or disease processes. This study highlights the importance of considering feeding ecology and necropsy (health and disease status) data while conducting contaminant surveys, and confirms some previous reports of trends in OHCs in Alaska marine mammals.
Organotin compounds (OTs) including mono- to tri-butyltins, -phenyltins, and -octyltins were determined in the liver of adult sea otters (Enhydra lutris) found dead along the coasts of California, Washington, and Alaska in the USA and Kamchatka, Russia. Total concentrations of OTs in sea otters from California ranged from 34 to 4100ng/g on a wet weight basis. The order of concentrations of OTs in sea otters was total butyltins>total octyltins> or = total phenyltins. Elevated concentrations of butyltins (BTs) were found in some otters classified under 'infectious-disease' mortality category. Concentrations of BTs in few of these otters were close to or above the threshold levels for adverse health effects. Total butyltin concentrations decreased significantly in the livers of California sea otters since the 1990s. Based on the concentrations of organotins in sea otters collected from 1992 to 2002, the half-lives of tributyltin and total butyltins in sea otters were estimated to be approximately three years.
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been detected in abiotic and biotic matrices worldwide, including the Arctic Ocean. Considering these chemicals' persistent and bioaccumulative potentials, it was expected that levels of PFCs, like those of many legacy organic pollutants, would respond slowly to the restrictions in production and usage. Temporal trend studies in remote areas, such as the Arctic, can help determine the chronology of contamination and the response of the environment to regulations on PFCs. Prior to this study, temporal trends of PFCs in Alaskan coastal waters had not been examined. In the present study, concentrations of six PFCs were determined in livers of northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) collected from three areas in south-central Alaska (Prince William Sound, n = 36; Resurrection Bay, n = 7; Kachemak Bay, n = 34) from 1992 to 2007. Additionally, previously published profiles and concentrations of PFCs in southern sea otters from California and Asian sea otters from Kamchatka (Russia) were compared to our new data, to determine the geographical differences in PFC profiles among these three regions in the Pacific Ocean. Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanesulfonamide (PFOSA), and perfluorononanoate (PFNA) were the predominant PFCs found in the livers of northern sea otters from 1992 to 2007. Other PFCs, such as perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), perfluoroundecanoate (PFUnDA), and perfluorodecanoate (PFDA), were detected less frequently, and at low concentrations. Overall, from 2001 to 2007, a decrease in concentrations of PFOS was found in northern sea otters, suggesting an immediate response to the phase-out in 2000 of perfluorooctanesulfonyl-based compounds by a major producer in the United States. In contrast, concentrations of PFNA in northern sea otters increased by 10-fold from 2004 to 2007. These results indicate that the contribution by PFNA to SigmaPFC concentrations is increasing in northern sea otters. The profiles (i.e., composition of individual PFC to SigmaPFC concentration) of PFCs in northern sea otters from Alaska were similar to those reported for southern sea otters from California, but were considerably different from the profiles reported for Asian sea otters from Russia, suggesting differences in point sources of exposure.