Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4771
Title: Very low embryonic crude oil exposures cause lasting cardiac defects in herring and salmon
Author: J. P. Incardona, M. G. Carls, L. Holland, T. L. Linbo, D. H. Baldwin, Mark S. Myers, K. A. Peck-Miller, M. Tagal, S. D. Rice, N. L. Scholz
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: Scientific Reports
Volume: 5
Pages: 13499
Keywords: oil spill, Exxon Valdez, herring, pink salmon, heart development, cardiotoxicity,

The 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster exposed embryos of pink salmon and Pacific herring to crude oil in shoreline spawning habitats throughout Prince William Sound, Alaska.  The herring fishery collapsed four years later.  The role of the spill, if any, in this decline remains one of the most controversial unanswered questions in modern natural resource injury assessment.  Crude oil disrupts excitation–contraction coupling in fish heart muscle cells, and we show here that salmon and herring exposed as embryos to trace levels of crude oil grow into juveniles with abnormal hearts and reduced cardiorespiratory function, the latter a key determinant of individual survival and population recruitment.  Oil exposure during cardiogenesis led to specific defects in the outflow tract and compact myocardium, and a hypertrophic response in spongy myocardium, evident in juveniles 7 to 9 months after exposure.  The thresholds for developmental cardiotoxicity were remarkably low, suggesting the scale of the Exxon Valdez impact in shoreline spawning habitats was much greater than previously appreciated.  Moreover, an irreversible loss of cardiac fitness and consequent increases in delayed mortality in oil–exposed cohorts may have been important contributors to the delayed decline of pink salmon and herring stocks in Prince William Sound.

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Theme: Sustaining Marine Ecosystem and Human Health
Foci: Develop methods, technologies, and data integration tools to predict ocean-related public health risks into health early warning and ocean observing systems