Skip to main content

Organochlorine Residues in South American Sea Lions, Otaria flavescens (Shaw, 1800): Bioaccumulation and Time Trends


Blubber from stranded South American sea lions (Otaria flavescens) was sampled between 1991 and 2005 on the Peninsula Valdés in Argentina and analyzed for organochlorine (OC) pollutants. Mean blubber concentrations, expressed on an extractable basis, were 686 (SD = 1,060) ng g−1 for dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (tDDT) and 735 (SD = 787) ng g−1 for polychlorinated byphenils (PCB). The OC levels were well below those associated with adverse sublethal effects and lethality in mammals. OC concentrations showed statistically significant associations with age that were positive in males and negative in females. These trends are consistent with the majority of marine mammal populations studied. There were no trends in the levels of tDDT or PCB over time. In spite of the low levels detected, OC contamination was present consistently over the 14-year period, suggesting continuous inputs from geographic redistribution.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Aguilar A (1984) Relationship of DDE/tDDT in marine mammals to the chronology of DDT input into the ecosystem. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 4:840–844

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Aguilar A, Borrell A (1994) Abnormally high polychlorinated biphenyl levels in striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) affected by the 1990–1992 Mediterranean epizootic. Sci Total Environ 154:237–247

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Aguilar A, Borrell A, Reijnders PJH (2002) Geographical and temporal variation in levels of organochlorine contaminants in marine mammals. Mar Environ Res 53:425–452

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Blasius ME, Goodmanlow GD (2008) Contaminants still high in top-level carnivores in the Southern California Bight: levels of DDT and PCBs in resident and transient pinnipeds. Mar Poll Bull 56:1973–1982

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Borrell A, Aguilar A (1999) A review of organochlorine and metal pollutants in marine mammals from Central and South America. J Cetacean Res Manage 1-195-207 (Sp. Issue 1)

  6. Crespo EA (1988) Dinámica poblacional del lobo marino de un pelo, Otaria flavescens (Shaw, 1800), en el Norte del litoral patagónico. Phd, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

  7. Dans SL, Crespo EA, Pedraza SN, Koen-Alonso M (2004) Recovery of the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) population in northern Patagonia. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 61:1681–1690

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Del Toro L, Heckel G, Camacho-Ibar VF, Schramm Y (2006) California sea lions (Zalophus californianus californianus) have lower chlorinated hydrocarbon contents in northern Baja California, Mexico, than in California, USA. Environ Pollut 142:83–92

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Fillmann G, Hermanns L, Fileman TW, Readman J (2007) Accumulation patterns of organochlorines in juveniles of Arctocephalus australis found stranded along the coast of Southern Brazil. Environ Pollut 146:262–267

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Forsyth DJ (2001) Extrapolation of laboratory tests to field populations. In: Shore RF, Rattner BA (eds) Ecotoxicology of wild mammals. Wiley, London, pp 577–634

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hutchinson JD, Simmonds MP (1994) Organochlorine contamination in pinnipeds. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 136:123–167

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Kajiwara N, Ueno D, Takahashi A, Baba N, Tanabe S (2004) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organochlorines in archived northern fur seal samples from the Pacific coast of Japan, 1972–1998. Environ Sci Technol 38:3804–3809

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Kannan K, Blankenship AL, Jones PD, Giesy JP (2000) Toxicity reference values for the toxic effects of polychlorinated biphenyls to aquatic mammals. Hum Ecol Risk Assess 6:181–201

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Le Boeuf BJ, Giesy JP, Kannan K, Kajiwara N, Tanabe S, Debier C (2002) Organochloride pesticides in California sea lions revisited. BMC Ecol. doi:10.1186/1472-6785-2-11

  15. Lee JS, Tanabe S, Umino H, Tatsukawa R (1996) Persistent organochlorines in Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) from the bulk of Alaska and the Bering Sea, 1976–1981. Mar Pollut Bull 32:535–544

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Loughlin TR, Castellini MA, Ylitalo G (2002) Spatial aspects of organochlorine contamination in northern fur seal tissues. Mar Pollut Bull 44:1024–1034

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Menone ML, de Moreno JEA, Moreno VJ, Lanfranchi AL, Metcalfe TL, Metcalfe CD (2001) Organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in a southern Atlantic coastal lagoon watershed, Argentina. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 40:355–362

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Miglioranza KSB, Aizpún de Moreno JE, Moreno VJ (2003) Dynamics of organochlorine pesticides in soils from a Southeastern region of Argentina. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:712–717

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Szapkievich VB, Cappozzo HL, Crespo EA, Bernabeu RO, Comas C, Mudry M (1999) Genetic relatedness in two Southern sea lion (Otaria flavescens) rookeries in Southwestern Atlantic. Zeitsch Säugetier 64:1–5

    Google Scholar 

  20. Vetter W, Weichbrodta M, Scholza E, Luckasa B, Oelschlägerb H (1999) Levels of organochlorines (DDT, PCBs, toxaphene, chlordane, dieldrin, and HCHs) in blubber of South African fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) from Cape Cross/Namibia. Mar Pollut Bull 38:830–836

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Ylitalo GM, Stein JE, Hom T, Johnson LL, Tilbury KL, Hall AJ, Rowles T, Greig D, Lowenstine LJ, Gulland FMD (2005) The role of organochlorines in cancer-associated mortality in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). Mar Pollut Bull 50:30–39

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


Thanks are due to many people from the Marine Mammal Laboratory (CENPAT who helped with fieldwork and collected tissue samples for this study). Logistic support for field work was provided by Centro Nacional Patagónico. Lourdes Berdier from Serveis Científico Tècnics of the University of Barcelona is gratefully acknowledged for GC–MS technical support and laboratory assistance. This study was possible through funding granted by Fundación BBVA.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Borrell.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Borrell, A., Garcia-Solà, A., Aguilar, A. et al. Organochlorine Residues in South American Sea Lions, Otaria flavescens (Shaw, 1800): Bioaccumulation and Time Trends. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 84, 731–737 (2010).

Download citation


  • PCB
  • DDT
  • Pollution
  • Otaria flavescens