Arctic contaminant research in the marine environment has focused on organohalogen compounds and mercury mainly because they are bioaccumulative, persistent and toxic. This review summarizes and discusses the patterns and trends of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury in ringed seals (Pusa hispida) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Eastern Canadian Arctic relative to the rest of the Canadian Arctic. The review provides explanations for these trends and looks at the implications of climate-related changes on contaminants in these marine mammals in a region that has been reviewed little. Presently, the highest levels of total mercury (THg) and the legacy pesticide HCH in ringed seals and polar bears are found in the Western Canadian Arctic relative to other locations. Whereas, highest levels of some legacy contaminants, including ∑ PCBs, PCB 153, ∑ DDTs, p,p′-DDE, ∑ CHLs, ClBz are found in the east (i.e., Ungava Bay and Labrador) and in the Beaufort Sea relative to other locations. The highest levels of recent contaminants, including PBDEs and PFOS are found at lower latitudes. Feeding ecology (e.g., feeding at a higher trophic position) is shaping the elevated levels of THg and some legacy contaminants in the west compared to the east. Spatial and temporal trends for POPs and THg are underpinned by historical loadings of surface ocean reservoirs including the Western Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. Trends set up by the distribution of water masses across the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are then acted upon locally by on-going atmospheric deposition, which is the dominant contributor for more recent contaminants. Warming and continued decline in sea ice are likely to result in further shifts in food web structure, which are likely to increase contaminant burdens in marine mammals. Monitoring of seawater and a range of trophic levels would provide a better basis to inform communities about contaminants in traditionally harvested foods, allow us to understand the causes of contaminant trends in marine ecosystems, and to track environmental response to source controls instituted under international conventions.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Canadian Arctic, Marine environment, Mercury, Persistent organic pollutants, Spatial trends
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.052
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Citation
Brown, T.M. (Tanya M.), Macdonald, R.W. (Robie W.), Muir, D.C.G. (Derek C.G.), & Letcher, R.J. (2018). The distribution and trends of persistent organic pollutants and mercury in marine mammals from Canada's Eastern Arctic. Science of the Total Environment (Vol. 618, pp. 500–517). doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.11.052