Organochlorine and heavy metal concentrations in blubber and liver tissue collected from Queensland (Australia) dugong (Dugong dugon)
Tissue samples of liver and blubber were salvaged from fifty-three dugong (Dugong dugon) carcasses stranded along the Queensland coast between 1996 and 2000. Liver tissue was analysed for a range of heavy metals and blubber samples were analysed for organochlorine compounds. Metal concentrations were similar in male and female animals and were generally highest in mature animals. Liver concentrations of arsenic, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, mercury and nickel in a number of individual animals were elevated in comparison to concentrations previously reported in Australian dugong. Dieldrin, DDT (and its breakdown products) and/or heptachlor epoxide were detected in 59% of dugong blubber samples. In general, concentrations of organochlorines were similar to those reported in dugong 20 years earlier, and were low in comparison to concentrations recorded from marine mammal tissue collected elsewhere in the world. With the exception of lead, the extent of carcass decomposition, the presence of disease or evidence of animal starvation prior to death did not significantly affect dugong tissue concentrations of metals or organochlorines. The results of the study suggest that bioaccumulation of metals and organochlorine compounds (other than dioxins) does not represent a significant risk to Great Barrier Reef dugong populations, particularly in the context of other pressures associated with coastal development and other anthropogenic activities.
Keywords: bioaccumulation, dioxins, dugongs, Great Barrier Reef, heavy metals, marine mammals, organochlorines, seagrass