Today, a team of U.S. and Norwegian scientists published new laboratory research findings that show how an Arctic fish species can be seriously affected by small amounts of crude oil released into surface waters. For Arctic (Polar) cod in its early stages of development, crude oil can be lethal if exposure is high enough. Some exposed Arctic cod eggs die not long after hatching due to toxicity. At lower exposure levels, others experience developmental issues affecting their survival when they become larvae and juveniles.
“With the warming ocean and sea ice decline in the Arctic, ship traffic is on the rise. As a result, cod and their habitats are at increasing risk to oil spills,” said Ben Laurel, research fisheries biologist, Alaska Fisheries Science Center and lead author of a new paper published this week in iScience.“Since Arctic cod are one of the most abundant circumpolar forage fish, they play a key role in the marine ecosystem. We really need to better understand how an oil spill will affect keystone species and the ecosystem as a whole.”
For this study, NOAA teamed up with Oregon State University, SINTEF Ocean, and Norway’s Institute of Marine Research. The multi-disciplinary team had expertise in toxicology, fish biology, energetic studies, embryology and chemistry. They conducted one of the first laboratory studies of oil impacts on this cold water fish species.