The dead body of a killer whale that washed up on a Scottish beach last year was one of the “most contaminated” animals on the planet, says experts. The killer whale named ‘Lulu’ was one of the UK’s last killer whales before she was found dead on the island of Tiree, tangled up in fishing lines.
Later on post-mortal tests carried out on the whale revealed that she had incredibly high levels of polychlorinated biphneyls (PCBs) contamination.
PCBs were vastly used in electrical equipment, paint, plastics, and rubber products until they were banned in the 1980’s. They are likely to cause cancer and suppress the immune system, and they do not break down in the environment.
Veterinary pathologist and head of the Scottish Marine Animal Standing Scheme Dr. Andrew Brownlow said, “The levels of PCB contamination in Lulu were incredibly high, surprisingly so. They were 20 times higher than the safe level that we would expect for cetaceans to be able to manage. That puts her as one of the most contaminated animals on the planet in terms of PCB burden, and does raise serious questions for the long-term survivability of this group (of UK killer whales).” He also added, “It is potentially plausible that there was some effect of the PCBs that was in some way debilitating her so she wasn’t strong enough or even aware enough to deal with this entanglement (in fishing line).”
The post-mortem also revealed that Lulu had never reproduced.
Ocean manager of WWF Simon Walmsley said, “The shockingly high levels of PCB contamination found in Lulu, the UK killer whale are another tragic example of the impact that we are having on nature. Such high levels of pollution in our oceans, rivers and atmosphere cannot be ignored. This requires action and it requires it fast. We must learn the lessons from these legacy pollutants and not release such contaminants into the environment without a clear understanding of the lasting impacts. In this case PCBs will stay in the environment and continue to pollute for many decades. We are on track to lose two-thirds of wildlife by 2020 and a large driver of this is the way we treat the planet.”
He added, “The results of this analysis must act as a reminder that it is imperative that we continue to strive to find a way that 7 billion people can live on our planet without trashing it.”
Experts believe that Lulu’s death was due to the chemical contamination caused by the PCBs.