New scientific report draws link between chemical pollution and declining marine populations
A new report published earlier this month has brought together scientific research on how chemical pollutants are adversely affecting the aquatic food chain.
The report was published by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) and the National Toxics Network, and warns that regulators may be not fully capturing the impact of chemical and plastic pollution on the health of fish populations. The report catalogues the “serious impacts” of “invisible killers” such as persistent organic pollutants and excessive nutrients on the immunity, fertility, development and survival of aquatic animals.
Chemical pollution makes wildlife populations and entire ecosystems more vulnerable and less resilient to the stresses of climate change or habitat loss. Chemical pollutants that interfere with the hormone system (endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs) are particularly worrying.
Key areas of concern identified are industrial releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and other chemicals into rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. PCBs are an infamous example of a persistent pollutant. Multiple studies over the last 60 years have linked PCBs to reproductive problems in marine mammals. Despite being banned globally in 2001, PCBs are still emitted from old industrial sites or open-air applications (such as paint on bridges) – and due to their persistence, these pollutants unfortunately are still ubiquitous in our marine environment.
Another persistent pollutant of great concern is DDT; a pesticide which is banned in many countries, but that still negatively affects wildlife populations. In a study reported this week, marine scientists say they have found what they believe to be as many as 25,000 barrels possibly containing DDT dumped off the southern California coast.