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European coastal pollution is harmful to seals
Date:3/22/2011

The bodies of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), which live in estuaries or along coastlines where industrial activities take place, are highly contaminated. This is the result of a European study, involving Spanish participation, which warns of the danger to these mammals from ports throughout Europe, even in the Mediterranean.

"Although there are no seals in Spanish waters, these species can be used as biomonitors of global pollution", Octavio Prez Luzardo, one of the authors of the study published recently in Marine Pollution Bulletin, and a researcher in the Environment and Health Research Group at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, tells SINC.

The group discovered that a population of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) from the estuary of the Elbe river (Germany) is exposed to higher levels of contamination than other animals living at a certain distance from the coast. Industrial activities, dredging and shipping have made this river one of the largest sources of pollution in the German waters of the North Sea.

"What is happening to the seals is happening to all the other species that share their ecosystem", says Prez Luzardo. The expert says that, "this kind of study, repeated periodically, is important because it makes it possible to monitor the effectiveness of policies put in place to prevent chemical contamination".

There is a large seal community throughout the whole of Europe in Scotland, the Scandinavian countries and the Mediterranean, where the Monk seal (Monachus monachus) lives. There are "also small populations of this seal in the Atlantic (Madeira), and it is at serious risk of extinction", the researcher warns.

High levels of heavy metals

In order to carry out the study, the experts measured the levels of 17 persistent pesticides, "many of which were banned more than 30 years ago, but which are still present because they are so resistant to bein
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Contact: SINC
info@plataformasinc.es
34-914-251-820
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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