§ Mr. Tony Lloyd
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent information he has received with regard to marine mammal problems caused by industrial and radioactive contaminants.
§ Mr. Heathcoat-Amory
A series of studies are under way or planned on contaminant levels in marine mammals, and I hope to announce shortly new studies on strandings and contaminant levels in small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises). From the studies reported so far, including those carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the sea mammal research unit of the Natural Environment Research Council, it appears that pollutant levels in seals are at the lower end of the reported range for the North and Baltic seas and no deleterious effects have been observed which can be directly attributed to pollution.
Further studies commissioned by my Department have been designed to examine the relationship between contaminant burdens in seals and their feeding sites by studying a group of breeding female grey seals over a number of years. Breeding performance is also being monitored and preliminary results are expected soon.
In addition, the sea mammal research unit, together with the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, has recently carried out a study of the level of radionuclides in grey 503W seals. The full report is to be published shortly but preliminary results show that levels of radionuclides were generally low and often below detection limits and that there were no differences between samples taken from seals in the North sea and north-east Atlantic.