Averting the Toxic Threat to the Ocean

Credit: S. LutterIn 1988, mass mortality of harbour seals in the North Sea was exacerbated by high levels of organohalogens, such as PCBs, which had accumulated in the animals via the food chain. WWF-Germany has initiated projects to reduce our dependence on hazardous substances. Furthermore, evidence has been building up that the exposure to other man-made chemicals can disrupt the reproductive, endocrine, immune and nervous system of humans and wildlife. For example, tributyltin (TBT) released from antifouling paints on ships hulls is known to cause infertility in whelks and growth abnormalities in oysters. WWF-Germany is cooperating with paint manufacturers, shipping companies and governments to investigate the effectiveness of alternative environmentally sound antifouling paints.

WWF-United Kingdom is funding research investigating the ability of synthetic chemical pollutants, nonylphenols, to mimic oestrogenic hormones and affect the ability of fish populations to reproduce normally. These chemicals are already known to be present in British rivers which drain into the North and Irish Seas. The work aims to demonstrate whether aquatic ecosystems are at risk from oestrogen mimics and if necessary to recommend suitable regulatory action.