Home > Explore News > NOAA Mussel Watch Assesses Condition of Coastal Contamination in Alaska National Parks

NOAA Mussel Watch Assesses Condition of Coastal Contamination in Alaska National Parks

Published on: 12/09/2020
Primary Contact(s): mary.rider@noaa.gov

Report cover: A Synthesis of Ten Years of Chemical Contaminants Monitoring in National Park Service - Southeast and Southwest Alaska Networks in Collaboration with the NOAA National Mussel Watch Program. Credit: NOAA.

In collaboration with the National Park Service Southwest and Southeast Alaska Networks, NOAA's Mussel Watch Program published the results of ten years (2007–2018) of chemical contaminant monitoring data in southern Alaska.

Based on contaminant accumulation in bay mussels (Mytilus trossulus) collected by the National Park Service and their partners, the report discusses concentrations and distribution of organic chemicals and heavy metals in the parks’ coastal waters. When Mussel Watch scientists compared contamination levels in the parks to long-term NOAA National Status and Trends monitoring data they found background levels for the majority of the contaminant concentrations in the parks.

With no known industrial point sources of contamination in the region, the presence of persistent organic pollutants in these remote national parks could be linked to maritime activities associated with commercial and recreational fishing, commercial shipping, and the “grasshopper” effect (a geochemical process resulting in the long-range atmospheric transport of chemicals from warmer to colder regions of the earth).

The report represents a rich source of information to help support National Park Service responses during unforeseen catastrophic marine pollution events and a guide for future sampling site choices and frequency.


Map of southern Alaska showing the five park units in Southwest Alaska Network (SWAN) and four park units in Southeast Alaska Network (SEAN). Credit: NOAA.

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