Most people have seen the emotion filled television ad about how Alabama fishermen would not sell anything to anyone that they did not eat themselves and that they were not sure was safe to consume. The ad was paid for as part of a 16 million dollar payment by BP to Alabama to promote Alabama business on the gulf coast.
An analysis of the level of contamination of fish in the North Sea and the potential effects on consumer’s health published at the Public Library of Science on May 23, 20111, is in direct opposition to the advertisements claims.
The scientists who did this research have no vested interest in the oil or fishing industry like the producers of Alabama’s fishy ad do. Yet the EPA claims to find no harmful levels of PAH or other oil products in fish sampled.
The summary of the results indicates that fish exposed to oil do have levels of oil contaminates including PAH that may have a long term affect on human health depending on the level of consumption by people.
The results are confirmed by independent research by scientists from Wood’s Hole.
There was a general relationship between the intensity of oil production in the investigated North Sea areas and the biomarker responses in haddock and Atlantic cod. The biological effects included induction of biotransformation enzymes, oxidative stress, altered fatty acid composition, and genotoxicity. PAH metabolites were also demonstrated in the bile. It is most remarkable to obtain biomarker responses in natural fish populations in the open sea that are similar to the biomarker responses in fish from highly polluted areas close to a point source.
The results of the measurements of EROD activity and DNA adducts raise the question whether the Egersund bank is a valid control. If Sleipner and Tampen are instead compared with the waters southwest of Iceland, the biological effects of oil production appear to be much stronger. Hence, the validity of the Egersund bank, or any other area in the North Sea, as control requires further investigation.
Risk assessment of various threats to the marine fish populations in the North Sea, such as overfishing, global warming, and eutrophication, should also take into account the ecologically relevant impact of offshore oil production.
Despite the growing awareness of the necessity of a sustainable development, the global economy continues to depend largely on the consumption of non-renewable energy resources. One such energy resource is fossil oil extracted from the seabed at offshore oil platforms. This type of oil production causes continuous environmental pollution from drilling waste, discharge of large amounts of produced water, and accidental spills
Methods and principal findings
Samples from natural populations of haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in two North Sea areas with extensive oil production were investigated. Exposure to and uptake of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were demonstrated, and biomarker analyses revealed adverse biological effects, including induction of biotransformation enzymes, oxidative stress, altered fatty acid composition, and genotoxicity. Genotoxicity was reflected by a hepatic DNA adduct pattern typical for exposure to a mixture of PAHs. Control material was collected from a North Sea area without oil production and from remote Icelandic waters. The difference between the two control areas indicates significant background pollution in the North Sea.
It is most remarkable to obtain biomarker responses in natural fish populations in the open sea that are similar to the biomarker responses in fish from highly polluted areas close to a point source. Risk assessment of various threats to the marine fish populations in the North Sea, such as overfishing, global warming, and eutrophication, should also take into account the ecologically relevant impact of offshore oil production.
Biomarkers in Natural Fish Populations Indicate Adverse Biological Effects of Offshore Oil Production
Lennart Balk1*, Ketil Hylland2,3, Tomas Hansson1*, Marc H. G. Berntssen4, Jonny Beyer5,6, Grete Jonsson7, Alf Melbye8, Merete Grung3, Bente E. Torstensen4, Jan Fredrik Børseth5, Halldora Skarphedinsdottir1, Jarle Klungsøyr9
1 Department of Applied Environmental Science (ITM), Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, 2 Department of Biology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway, 3 Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), Oslo, Norway, 4 National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), Bergen, Norway, 5 International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), Stavanger, Norway, 6 Department of Mathematics and Natural Science, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway, 7 Department of Medical Biochemistry, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway, 8 Marine Environmental Technology, SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, Trondheim, Norway, 9 Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Bergen, Norway
Citation: Balk L, Hylland K, Hansson T, Berntssen MHG, Beyer J, et al. (2011) Biomarkers in Natural Fish Populations Indicate Adverse Biological Effects of Offshore Oil Production. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19735. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019735