Marine Mammal Stranding Response Program
PBT Screening Tool


History: Alaska Native peoples have become concerned about the safety of their subsistence foods. In response, TASSC secured funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to test a subsistence food for Level 1 PBT contaminants, typically thought of as the “dirty dozen.” Level 1 PBT’s include methyl mercury, PCBs, pesticides, DDTs and dioxins.

Gull eggshells at TASSC office. Photo © TASSC.
  • TASSC chose seagull eggs, a common springtime food around the entire coastline of Alaska and one of the first fresh sources of protein available after winter.
  • The Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) was created and approved by the USEPA. We hope it can serve as a template for tribes and other Alaska Native organizations embarking upon this type of work.
  • Field Coordinators from Togiak, Mekoryuk, Unalaska, Sitka and Kotzebue were trained in contaminant sampling and collected gull eggs in spring/summer 2000. The eggs were subsequently sent out for analysis.
  • Dr. Laurie Chan, of McGill University and the Center for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) based in Canada, did the preliminary health analysis providing a broad interpretation and evaluation on the levels found in the eggs and their affect on human health.
  • The contaminant results were then analyzed at TASSC using Minimum Risk Levels by the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and USEPA’s Estimated Lifetime Cancer Risk, and found no significant health risks for any of the five community’s gull eggs.
  • TASSC held community meetings returning the results back to those that consume the seagull eggs (Mekoryuk, Togiak, Unalaska, Sitka and Kotzebue) in the winter 2002/03.
  • All participating communities have a copy of the final report Design and Field Test a Prototype for a PBT Screening Tool for a Selected Alaska Tribal Subsistence Food. Tribes also have posters detailing the project, where there eggs were collected and each other’s results.



L. King on Triangle Island where Native Village of Mekoryuk harvests gull eggs. Photo © TASSC.

Future Plans: This project ended March 31, 2003. With the final report completed and all the information returned back to the communities, TASSC and the participating communities are pleased to report the seagull eggs are considered safe to consume. We hope that others will be able to utilize the documented process of testing subsistence foods for contaminants with our final report.
TASSC EPA Egg Testing Workshop, November 2002. Photo © TASSC.



© 2005 The Alaska Sea Otter & Steller Sea Lion Commission 
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