Acute lead toxicosis in a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) consequent to ingestion of a lead fishing sinker

Tanja S. Zabka, Martin Haulena, Birgit Puschner, Frances M D Gulland, Patricia A Conrad, Linda J Lowenstine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


An adult female harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi) stranded in northern California on 25 June 2004, exhibited progressive weakness, disorientation, and seizures, and despite therapy, died within 4 days. On pathologic examination, a lead fishing sinker was in the stomach, and changes in the brain, heart, kidney, liver, lymph nodes, and spleen were supportive of acute lead toxicosis. The diagnosis was made on the basis of concentrations of lead in the sinker (90-98% lead), antemortem whole blood (0.66 ppm), and postmortem tissues (84 ppm, wet weight liver). This first documented case of lead toxicosis in a wild marine mammal demonstrates an additional way in which human fishing activities can harm marine mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-657
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Wildlife Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006



  • Brain
  • Heart
  • Hemosiderosis
  • Lead sinker
  • Pathology
  • Phoca vitulina richardsi
  • Pinniped
  • Toxicology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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