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  • Persistent organic pollutant levels in juvenile salmonids, forage fish and their avian predators from Puget Sound and the outer WA coast


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Conservation Biology CB - Ecosystem Science


POPs in forage fish
Persistent organic pollutant levels in juvenile salmonids, forage fish and their avian predators from Puget Sound and the outer WA coast
This project is examining contaminant loads of fish prey species of a resident marine bird (Rhinoceros Auklet) breeding in inland waters (Puget Sound) and in the northern California Current (outer Washington coast). It is being conducted by NMFS FTEs, in collaboration with scientists from the State of Washington and University of Puget Sound. Contaminant loads of fish prey as well as the marine bird predators are being assessed in the context of other upper trophic level predators in Puget Sound (Southern resident killer whales; harbor seals; adult salmonids). Scientific manuscripts and technical reports will be the main products.

The target audience includes the Puget Sound Partnership, resource management agencies, stakeholders in the Puget Sound area, and marine scientists in general. This is an on-going, stand-alone project without a firm deadline.

Research Themes

Sustainable, safe and secure seafood for healthy populations and vibrant communities
Effective fisheries management provides economic opportunities and ensures the long-term sustainability of fisheries and the habitats on which they depend. The NWFSC seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data used in stock assessments, the methods for assessing stocks and ecosystem sustainability within the context of human modification of the environment. The NWFSC also provides state-of-the-art science and technology to support aquaculture while protecting and maintaining ecosystem health. Further, pathogens, toxins from harmful algal blooms (HABs), chemical contaminants and other stressors of marine ecosystems pose significant risks to health of both seafood resources and to humans. The NWFSC focuses on research to improve understanding of those risks, how to forecast them, and identify means to mitigate their impacts.

Research Foci

Provide scientific support to ensure safe seafood for healthier populations and characterize how human activities and climate affect risks from pathogens, chemical contaminants, and biotoxins
The availability of nutritious and safe seafood from marine ecosystems and aquaculture are essential to maintain and maximize human health. Even though fish are known to have a variety of health benefits, some seafood (wild or farmed) may contain levels of toxic compounds (e.g., chemical contaminants, pathogens, biotoxins) from a variety of human-related and natural sources that can pose health risks to humans, especially for those groups with high rates of seafood consumption. The development of novel methods and technologies to assess seafood safety and biological effects of these toxic compounds remains a priority for commercial, subsistence and recreational consumption of seafood. For example, several species (e.g., zebrafish, sea lions, shellfish) are excellent indicators of environmental stress and potential health threats to marine species and humans. These species can serve as informative animal models for investigations of the mechanisms of toxicity or disease processes. Specific research goals include (1) improve methods for monitoring for the presence of pathogens, toxins and contaminants in seafood products, (2) characterize the environmental and climate conditions that may be favorable for potential biotoxin and pathogen outbreaks, (3) develop technologies to remove chemical contaminants from fish feed and to enhance the nutritional content of aquaculture products, (4) develop a better understanding of the net economic and health benefits of seafood consumption balanced with the risk of exposure to pathogens, toxins and contaminants, and (5) develop new mechanistic animal models for the study of infectious diseases, as well as toxicological, physiological, and biochemical processes relevant to marine animal and human health.


feeding ecology
The study of the structure of feeding relationships among organisms in an ecosystem.
marine ecosystems
ecological relationships in marine ecosystems
persistent organic pollutants
various classes of lipophilic, persistent chemical contaminants that were used as pesticides and industrial chemicals
stable isotopes
isotopes of an element that have the same atomic number, but different atomic mass


None associated


Species Aechmophorus occidentalis
western grebe
Species Allosmerus elongatus
whitebait smelt
Species Ammodytes hexapterus
Pacific sand lance
Species Cepphus columba
pigeon guillemot
Species Cerorhinca monocerata
rhinoceros auklet
Species Clupea pallasii
Pacific herring
Species Fratercula cirrhata
tufted puffin
Species Hypomesus pretiosus
surf smelt
Species Oncorhynchus keta
chum salmon, dog salmon, Keta salmon
Species Oncorhynchus kisutch
Coho salmon, silver salmon
Species Oncorhynchus nerka
kokanee, red salmon, sockeye salmon
Species Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Chinook salmon, king salmon, spring salmon
Species Phalacrocorax pelagicus
pelagic cormorant
Species Uria aalge
(southern and northern) guillemot, common guillemot, common murre, guillemot, northern guillemot


Gina Ylitalo
Internal Collaborator
Thomas Good
Principal Investigator