Of Poisons and Plastics: An Overview of the Latest Pollution Issues Affecting Marine Mammals

  • Mark Peter Simmonds
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 17)


Persistent organic pollutants were recognised decades ago as significant threats to wildlife including marine mammals. Efforts to control certain pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and associated successful declines in environmental loadings followed. However, it has very recently become apparent that PCBs continue to pose a significant threat. This is especially the case for certain cetacean populations in Europe which now seem to be heading towards extinction because of PCBs-induced reproductive failure. The effects of such pollution on marine mammal health are a significant welfare concern, and urgent efforts to stem any further movement of PCBs into the oceans are now required. In addition, marine debris is a fast-growing threat to marine wildlife, bringing with it severe welfare concerns for some marine mammal populations. This is only set to get worse as more discarded plastics enter the oceans; again urgent action is advocated.



Thanks to Paul Jepson, Rob Deaville and Laetitia Nunny for comments on sections of earlier drafts and to Andrew Butterworth for encouragement and the opportunity to contribute to this volume. All mistakes are my own, as are the views presented which do not necessarily reflect those of any organisation I am (or have been) affiliated with.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senior Marine ScientistHumane Society InternationalLondonUK
  2. 2.Visiting FellowUniversity of Bristol, School of Veterinary SciencesBristolUK

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