Toxicity of crude oil chemically dispersed in a wave tank to embryos of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus)



Tests of crude oil toxicity to fish are often chronic, exposing embryos from fertilization to hatch to oil solutions prepared using standard mixing procedures. However, during oil spills, fish are not often exposed for long periods and the dynamic nature of the ocean is not easily replicated in the lab. Our objective was to determine if brief exposures of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) embryos to dispersed oil prepared by standard mixing procedures was as toxic as oil dispersed in a more realistic model system. Embryos were first exposed to chemically dispersed Alaska North Slope crude and Arabian light crude oil for 2.4 h to 14 d from fertilization to determine if exposure time affected toxicity. Toxicity increased with exposure time, but 2.4-h exposures at realistic concentrations of oil induced blue-sac disease and reduced the percentage of normal embryos at hatch; there was little difference in toxicity between the two oils. Secondly, oil was chemically dispersed in a wave tank to determine if the resultant oil solutions were as toxic to herring embryos as laboratory-derived dispersed oil using a single exposure period of 24 h. Samples taken 15 min postdispersion were more toxic than laboratory-prepared solutions, but samples taken at 5, 30, and 60 min postdispersion were less toxic. Overall, the laboratory- and wave tank-derived solutions of dispersed oil provided similar estimates of toxicity despite differences in the methods for preparing test solutions, suggesting that laboratory and wave tank data are a reliable basis for ecological risk assessments of spilled oil. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:1324–1333. © 2012 SETAC