Toxicity of weathered Exxon Valdez crude oil to pink salmon embryos



Research was conducted at the University of Idaho (Moscow, ID, USA) on the toxicity of weathered Exxon Valdez crude oil to embryos of pink salmon from 2001 to 2003 for the purpose of comparing these data with those from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Laboratory at Auke Bay (AK, USA). Mortality reported at Auke Bay for embryos chronically exposed to very low concentrations of aqueous solutions of weathered oil, measured as dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), was inconsistent with that in other published research. Using the Auke Bay experimental design, we found that toxicity is not evident in pink salmon embryos until chronic exposure to laboratory weathered and naturally weathered oil concentrations exceeding 1,500 and 2,250 ppm, respectively, representing a total PAH tissue burden in excess of 7,100 ppb. Effluent hydrocarbons also drop well below concentrations sufficient to cause harm over the time frame of a few weeks, regardless of oiling level. Resolution of differences with Auke Bay involved the source of contributing hydrocarbons. The experimental design did not exclude dispersed oil droplets from the aqueous solution; thus, toxicity was not limited to the dissolved hydrocarbon fraction. The implications of the present results are discussed regarding the toxic risk of weathered oil to pink salmon embryos in streams of Prince William Sound (AK, USA).