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Contamination - Environment - Saguenay : An exceptional fjord!

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The case of mercury | Aromatic hydrocarbons | Organochlorinated compounds | Beluga contamination

Beluga contamination

Belugas are whales that have teeth and not dewlaps as rorquals have. They seek certain prey in particular but are also opportunistic as shown by their very varied stomach content. Indeed, they eat small fish and shellfish in the sediments.

In the early 80's, the first analyses made on the beluga carcasses washed ashore along the Saint-Lawrence River revealed high levels of PCBs and other chlorinated pesticides in their fat layer. The concentration in the fat increased until the mid 90's and seems to have slightly decreased or to be stable. A few more years of follow-up will be required to verify this properly.

The source of PCBs and other organochlorinated compounds that contaminate belugas is not in the Saguenay River. Examining the trophic network of the Saguenay River reveals that it is slightly contaminated, but the contamination seems to be insignificant. The real source is probably the Saint-Lawrence River that, in spite of all the cleanup work done over the last few years, still carries too much polluted material. According to Environment Canada, toxic input by the Great Lakes carried by the Saint-Lawrence River was reduced by 95 % over ten years. If this estimation were correct, there would still be 5 % contaminating our poor belugas.

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