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Toxic chemicals in Canadian fish-eating birds

Marine Pollution Bulletin
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0025-326x(77)90108-4
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract Cross-country comparison of DDE and PCB residue levels in cormorant, gull and tern eggs in Canada reveal that bird populations at the Great Lakes are most contaminated with those pollutants. DDE levels have been correlated with reproductive failure in Double-crested Cormorants in the Great Lakes with eggshell thinning as a major factor. Low reproductive success in Herring Gull colonies at Lake Ontario is associated with high chlorinated hydrocarbon levels in eggs. Fish-eating birds in the Wabigoon River system, northwestern Ontario, are among the most known mercury contaminated birds. It is suggested that the effects of mercury on the reproduction of fish-eating birds should be further examined there. Fish-eating birds occupy the highest levels of the food web and magnification of toxic chemicals through prey organisms in this web makes those birds vulnerable to the effects of environmental contaminants. Since fish-eating birds are present everywhere in Canada's freshwater and marine habitats and occupy various niches there, they may serve as pollution indicators in various food chains of our aquatic environment. Colonial birds are especially valuable indicators as pollution effects on total bird populations can be studied. Baseline information on fish-eating bird populations should now be collected everywhere in Canada for measuring present and future effects of environmental pollutants, as well as other man-made disturbances on their populations.

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