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Toxic Bioaccumulation in Orcas

SUMMARY: Endangered Southern Resident killer whales have high levels of toxic contaminants that can affect their health and reproduction.  They are at risk because the are at the top of the food chain and have long life spans resulting in bioaccumulation of toxins.  High levels of legacy contaminants like PCBs and DDT, as well as newly emerging contaminants like PBDEs (flame retardants), are stored in the blubber of the whale and can me measured in both biopsy samples and in feces.  The whales are in danger of extinction because of limited Chinook salmon prey, interference from vessels and sound making it harder for the whales to meet their energetic needs and when food limited the whales use their blubber releasing harmful toxins in their systems.  We work with many federal and state agency partners to understand and address this threat as part of our recovery program.  There are actions people can take everyday to help reduce the input of harmful contaminants into the environment.

BIO: Lynne Barre (pronounced like Barry)

Lynne has been with the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries in Seattle for over fifteen years implementing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Lynne is the Recovery Coordinator for endangered Southern Resident killer whales and supports other aspects of the marine mammal program, such as helping coordinate the stranding network. She also works on ESA-listed rockfish species and coordinates with Puget Sound salmon recovery efforts.  Lynne has a B.S in Biology from Georgetown University and an M.S. in Animal Behavior from San Diego State University. Lynne’s background is in marine mammal research including field work  with dolphins in Southern California and Shark Bay, Western Australia and has worked with the Crittercam team at National Geographic, putting underwater cameras on marine animals to learn about their lives under the surface.  


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