Fisheries & Ecological Services
Alaska Region


Environmental Contaminants


In northern regions, contaminants such as organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and heavy metals are of concern due to their persistence, toxicity, and deposition by global transport. Localized sources of contamination such as landfills, leaking drums and abandoned structures also exist in some areas. While the presence of various contaminants has been documented in Alaskan fish and wildlife, potential risks of these contaminants to wildlife resources, and to the people who rely on those resources for subsistence, are poorly understood.

Elevated contaminant concentrations in fish and wildlife have the potential to negatively affect population size, health and viability. Consequently, contaminants may impact the long-term availability of resources harvested by subsistence users. The Service has conducted a limited number of studies evaluating contaminants in wildlife used for subsistence, and we intend to conduct additional studies as funding allows.

We provide data collected during these studies to public health agencies and Alaska Native science and health organizations, who cooperatively evaluate the benefits and potential risks of consuming traditional foods as part of a subsistence lifestyle.

Salmon is an important subsistence food.  USFWS. Click to enlarge.


Last updated: March 23, 2010