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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Dec 1;38(23):6217-24.

Magnification and toxicity of PCBs, PCDDs, and PCDFs in upriver-migrating Pacific salmon.

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  • 1School of Resource & Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6.


The depletion of lipids associated with pre-spawning migration of Pacific salmon has the potential to magnify concentrations of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs), which elevates risk of toxic effects. We present data from a field study of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) migrating to spawn in Great Central Lake, BC, which demonstrate that pre-spawning migration causes a magnification of PCB, PCDD, and PCDF concentrations in female gonads (1.9-2.5-fold), female soma (3.4-5.6-fold), and male soma (5.6-9.7-fold). We further develop a model of prespawning migration chemical magnification for sockeye salmon stocks as a function of migration distance. This model is shown to be consistent with available empirical data on pre-spawning magnification and predicts magnification factors ranging between 1.4 and 7.9 in gonad and between 1.6 and 10.4 in soma in seven Pacific salmon stocks in British Columbia. Post-migration (prespawning) toxic equivalent dioxin concentrations in roe were measured to be approximately 3 pg/g lipid in salmon from the Great Central Lake sockeye stock and estimated to range between 1.5 pg/g lipid for the shortest-migrating stocks and 7 pg/g lipid for the longest-migrating stocks. Concentrations in certain stocks approach or exceed the concentration of 3 pg/g lipid associated with 30% egg mortality in Oncorhynchus mykiss. This indicates the potential for population-level effects of current contaminant levels. It also suggests that historic contaminant concentrations, which were greater than current concentrations, may have contributed significantly to the decline of certain Pacific salmon stocks in British Columbia.

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