Contaminants In Beluga Food Web and Habitat
Identifying priority contaminants in at-risk SLE beluga prey and their habitat
Characterizing the nature, significance and origins of the many different pollutants found in high trophic level marine mammals is exceedingly difficult. The St Lawrence Estuary beluga (SLE beluga) face significant threats from high levels of endocrine disrupting contaminants, alongside other anthropogenic threats. A science-based evaluation of the contaminants found in their diet (food webs), habitat (sediment), the development, adaptation and/or application of new tools to prioritise (rank) the pollutants of concern, and the delivery of refined guidance herein will support of
the wider conservation agenda for this at-risk species. The aim of this project is to determine which prey species are accumulating contaminants of concern (COCs) in the endangered SLE beluga and to identify hot spots and characterize concentrations of COCs
in beluga habitat (i.e. sediment). Little information exists on the contribution of priority contaminants in different SLE beluga prey items and in their habitat. This study underscores the value of generating new information on contaminant concentrations and profiles in dominant prey species and their critical habitat for this endangered whale populations. Over 622 prey samples (2019, 2020) have been collected from over 20 species in collaboration with colleagues at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and
sediment samples have and are being collected from SLE beluga critical habitat in collaboration with Parks Canada. The use of these data combined with SLE beluga tissue in food web models, and risk-based assessments will facilitate source identification, natural resource management, environmental assessments and habitat stewardship.