The complex nature of ocean pollution underscores the utility in identifying and characterizing a limited number of “indicators” that enables scientists and managers to track trends over space and time. This paper introduces a special issue on indicators of marine pollution in the North Pacific Ocean and builds on a scientific session that was held at the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. The special issue highlights studies using a variety of indicators to provide insight into the identification of legacy and emerging contaminants, the ranking of priority pollutants from various sources, and the effects of contaminants on ecosystem health in the North Pacific Ocean. Examples include the use of mussels to illustrate spatial and temporal trends of a number of contaminants following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the use of molecular marker (linear alkylbenzenes, hopanes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) profiles to identify pollution sources, and the use of plastic resin pellets to illustrate spatial trends of petroleum pollution around the world. Stable isotopes were used to strengthen the utility of the Glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) as an indicator of marine pollution. Examples also demonstrate the development and application of biomarker approaches, including gene transcripts, oxidative stress, estradiol, hatchability, and respiration and swimming behavior abnormalities, as a function of exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, sulfur-diesel, Pinghu crude oil, galaxolide and antifouling biocides. We provide a brief review of indicators of marine pollution, identify research gaps, and summarize key findings from the articles published within the issue. This special issue represents the first compilation of research pertaining to marine pollution indicators in the North Pacific Ocean and provides guidance to inform mitigation and monitoring efforts of contaminants in the region.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, pp 1–5, 14 July 2017