Southern Resident Killer Whale ESA Recovery Plan Implementation - Environmental Contaminants

Recent decades have brought rising concern over the adverse environmental effects resulting from the use and disposal of numerous chemical compounds in industry, agriculture, households, and medical treatment. Many types of chemicals are toxic when present in high concentrations. Chemical compounds are of concern because of their ability to induce immune suppression, reproductive impairment, and other physiological damage, as observed in other marine mammals. Contaminants enter marine waters and sediments from numerous sources, but are typically concentrated near areas of high human population and industrialization. Freshwater contamination is also of concern because of its impacts on salmon populations during sensitive life stages.

Because of projected human population growth in the region in coming decades, especially in Puget Sound and the Georgia Basin, greater efforts will be needed by governments, industry, and the public to minimize pollution. The recovery plan (pdf format 1.7MB) calls for clean-up of contaminated sites, and monitoring and minimizing inputs of toxic chemicals into the whales' habitat and food chain:

1.2 Minimize pollution and chemical contamination in Southern Resident habitats.

Puget Sound Partnership

Partnership with EPA, Region 10

Habitat Conservation on the West Coast

1.2.1 Clean up contaminated sites and sediments.

NOAA's Damage Assessment, Remediation, & Restoration Program

Habitat Blueprint, Puget Sound Initiative

1.2.2 Minimize continuing inputs of contaminants into the environment.

Water Quality and Runoff Best Practices

1.2.3 Minimize contamination in prey.

PBDE report, Partnership with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, this report describing results from a series of technical workshops about the potential effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) on Puget Sound and Southern Resident killer whales.