Congener Patterns of Persistent Organic Pollutants Establish the Extent of Contaminant Biotransport by Pacific Salmon in the Great Lakes

In the Great Lakes, introduced Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) can transport persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), to new environments during their spawning migrations. To explore the nature and extent of POP biotransport by salmon, we compared 58 PCB and 6 PBDE congeners found in spawning salmon directly to those in resident stream fish. We hypothesized that stream fish exposed to salmon spawners would have congener patterns similar to those of salmon, the presumed contaminant source. Using permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) and nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS), we found that POP congener patterns of Pacific salmon varied among regions in the Great Lakes basin (i.e., Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, or Lake Superior), tissue type (whole fish or eggs), and contaminant type (PCB or PBDE). For stream-resident fish, POP congener pattern was influenced by the presence of salmon, location (i.e., Great Lakes Basin), and species identity (i.e., brook trout [Salvelinus fontinalis] or mottled sculpin [Cottus bairdii]). Similarity in congener patterns indicated that salmon are a source of POPs to brook trout in stream reaches receiving salmon spawners from Lake Michigan and Lake Huron but not from Lake Superior. Congener patterns of mottled sculpin differed from those of brook trout and salmon, suggesting that brook trout and mottled sculpin either use salmon tissue to differing degrees, acquire POPs from different dietary sources, or bioaccumulate or metabolize POPs differently. Overall, our analyses identified the important role of salmon in contaminant biotransport but also demonstrated that the extent of salmon-mediated POP transfer and uptake in Great Lakes tributaries is location- and species-specific.