Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Epipelagic Fish Populations in the Northeast Gulf of Mexico

Event Name/Location

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 21-23, 2013

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The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill contaminated large areas of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Contamination from the spill poses serious health risks to many of the epipelagic populations of marine wildlife that reside within or around the primary contamination zone. Prior oil spills, such as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, have resulted in population-level impacts on some wildlife species. It is for this reason that monitoring the health of epipelagic fish species that were potentially impacted by the spill must be undertaken. The goals of this study were to assess whether epipelagic fish species in the northeast Gulf of Mexico were exposed to and affected by oil-related contaminants, particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are the most toxic constituents of oil, and therefore have the greatest potential impact on the species examined. Multiple biomarkers of PAH exposure and effects were examined in epipelagic species, such as swordfish, oilfish, tunas, and a number of shark species collected from contaminated sites in order to determine the impacts of the spill. These biomarkers were compared to samples taken from the southwest Atlantic in order to determine whether the fish residing in the Gulf of Mexico are experiencing the effects of oil exposure.

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