Bottlenose dolphins within the estuaries of southern Georgia have been identified as having the highest polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminant levels recorded for any marine mammal.
These PCB levels can be traced back to a known EPA Superfund point-source in the Turtle/Brunswick River Estuary (TBRE).
Although contaminants measured in dolphins from the estuarine waters surrounding Sapelo Island, 30 km to the north, are lower than those in the TBRE, the PCB levels in Sapelo dolphins are still some of the highest in the southeastern U.S. In addition, a large proportion of the PCBs measured in these Sapelo dolphins, have been linked to the TBRE point-source.
Based in part upon these results, numerous ongoing studies are being conducted to identify the scope of contamination in all levels of the marsh biota within and outside of the TBRE. Of particular interest is to identify if the contaminant signature from the TBRE point-source can be identified in other estuarine and coastal dolphin populations in Georgia and Florida.
In September 2013, a multi-agency team of researchers from NOAA, Chicago Zoological Society, University of North Florida, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute collaborated on a project based out of Jacksonville, FL to collect remote biopsy samples from estuarine and coastal dolphins to assess the scope of contamination from the TBRE point-source. In total, 38 samples were collected over a 5-day period. The results of this study will provide insight into the geographic extent of contamination from the TBRE point-source.
This article was published on page 6 in the January 2014 Nicks n Notches.